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4/9/18blog post

teen drug and alcohol abuse

In the next several years, it appears that recreational marijuana will be legally available to adults. Let’s now prepare for the inevitable terrible consequences for our kids.

About 38 percent of high school kids have smoked marijuana according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This drug has become more socially acceptable, viewed inaccurately as a safer alternative to alcohol.

I understand the arguments for making marijuana legal. We tried prohibition from 1919 to 1933, and the results were increased crime, violence, and corruption. You can’t outlaw the demand for mind-altering experiences.  With the 223 billion dollars in alcohol revenue in the United States, it’s hard to tell our kids that it’s wrong to chemically alter your mood. 

It’s hard to exert self-control over powerful drugs. The CDC estimated that excessive drinking costs the economy about 249 billion dollars, or about two dollars for every drink sold, and is directly connected to 88,000 deaths per year.  An overwhelming number of societal ills are related to alcohol abuse, including crime, health problems, violence and mental problems.

Now consider the impact of the misuse of opioids. 64,000 deaths in 2016 were drug-related.  These statistics don’t begin to tell the story of the pain experienced by family and friends of these victims. 

The legalization of marijuana is a reckless public policy. We already have enough pills and drinks to change our moods. It’s now even harder to figure out how to protect our children from making bad decisions at the time of their lives when they are most vulnerable.  Here’s what I tell kids in my office.

  1. Alcohol, drugs, pot, and other mind-altering substances can be fun. There is a good reason why these substances are so popular. You experience a physical reaction that can feel good, relieve stress, and provide temporary relief from life’s hassles. Let’s acknowledge the obvious.
  2. Their positive effects are exactly what make drugs so psychologically dangerous. Please don’t tell me that marijuana, or any mood altering subtance is safe. This stuff is risky and hazardous to your mental health, particularly at your age. While most people don’t abuse alcohol or pills, many do. You can’t predict the impact on you.
  3. Are the benefits worth the risks?  You have to be really stupid to think that drinking or drug use during your teen years is worth the risk. Figure out how to discover meaning in your life, control your fluctuating moods and develop real relationships without chemical help.
  4. Wait a while.  Do what’s right, not what’s fashionable. Wait until your later teen years or early twenties before deciding what’s right for you.