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9/21/14blog post

is it safe to smoke pot?

Fifty-eight percent of Americans now support the legalization of pot, a significant cultural shift since California became the first state in 1996 to allow for the medical use of marijuana. Colorado and Washington now permit the recreational use of pot by adults.

This is terrible news for kids and families. Don’t we already have enough pills to ingest, alcohol to drink and drugs to smoke to chemically manage our moods?

The increasing acceptance of smoking marijuana is based upon the mistaken idea that it is a safe drug. It’s not.

I’m really not some crazy conspiracy theorist, but I do wonder why a recent scientific publication on the safety of marijuana in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine got so little publicity.

After a careful review of the scientific research, the experts concluded that “marijuana use has been associated with substantial adverse effects…” Would the media attention have been different if the results were otherwise?

The scientific data supports the conclusion that there is a “high level of confidence” that marijuana use is related to motor vehicle accidents, diminished lifetime achievement, chronic bronchitis, and drug addiction. There is a “medium degree of confidence” that smoking pot is associated with abnormal brain development, progression to the use of other drugs, depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

Because of its perceived safety, smoking pot by our kids is increasing. Twenty-three percent of twelfth graders, 18 percent of tenth graders, and 7 percent of eighth graders admitted to smoking pot in the past 30 days.

I suppose what adults do with their lives is up to them, but society ends up paying a high cost for their bad decisions. Substance abuse is epidemic, costing us $600 billion dollars yearly with 23 million Americans requiring treatment for substance abuse.

The cultural acceptance of marijuana results in kids that are incredibly ignorant about the real dangers of pot. The scientists in the New England Journal article expressed particular concern about smoking marijuana during adolescence. Such vulnerability is “probably related to the fact that the brain…undergoes active development during adolescence.” The effects of long term or heavy use of smoking pot during adolescence is associated with altered brain development, poor educational outcomes, addiction, cognitive impairment and diminished achievement.

The issue isn’t smoking pot, but rather how do we manage feelings of boredom, anger, anxiety, or depression. Chemicals are an easy and effective way to change your mood. We want to feel good now, with little attention to the long-term health or psychological risks.

Drug use generally doesn’t occur with people who are in meaningful relationships, do things that matter, and feel that their lives are important. Helping our kids develop those skills represents the real solution to the drug abuse problem.

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