While on the issue of marijuana legalization and its continually evolving legal status, I look back and realize that while I’d been trudging along trying to live life on life’s terms and busy doing the corporate hustle, it went unnoticed by me (and others, I’m sure) that in recent years marijuana use has become more socially acceptable among both adults and youth, while perceptions of risk among adolescents of the drug’s harms have been declining.
I was surprised on being told that it’s fairly common now to arrive for a dinner with gift-wrapped hash, grass and what have you for the party hosts. Well, if we could do it with booze and wine, then why not weed…I hope I’m not giving someone ideas!
Adolescence is a critical “at-risk period” for substance use and addiction. All addictive drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, have especially harmful effects on the adolescent brain, which is still undergoing significant development.
These days the attitudes and feelings towards marijuana use have become favourable and positive as opposed to my younger days. In the early seventies, we had a high tolerance for deviance and rebellious activities which led to some of us smoking pot and hash.
Marijuana use, in adolescents in particular, can cause negative neurological effects. Long-term, regular use starting in the young adult years may impair brain development and functioning. The main chemical in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) disrupts the brain’s normal functioning and can lead to problems studying, learning new things, and recalling recent events.
Frequent marijuana use has also been linked to increased risk of psychosis in individuals with specific pre-existing genetic vulnerabilities. And marijuana use—particularly long-term, chronic use or use starting at a young age—can also lead to dependence and addiction. In case you haven’t noticed, both the words – addictive and addiction – appear in this post (to my dismay too).
So how to prevent marijuana use or intervene when use has already begun? Easy…social, emotional, behavioural, cognitive, and moral competence. Huh…are you for real? I’m not sure if at the age of 62 I have the interpersonal skills that will help me integrate feelings, thinking, and actions to achieve these specific social and interpersonal goals. I like to think I do…but when I’m rigorously honest with myself, I’m sometimes unsure.
But seriously, all of the above plus self-efficacy, spirituality and resiliency are protective factors and the way to go, along with accurate information on the dangers and misconceptions of marijuana use.