AN HONEST DIALOGUE ABOUT MARIJUANA USE BY MINOR(S) PART 3 of 4
Michael: Let’s focus on some of the physical effects of marijuana use. I recall that when you used to use marijuana regularly you were not in as good a physical condition and tended not to work out.
Andrew: Very true. I used to be a soccer player before smoking marijuana and anyone who starts smoking anything, be its cigarettes or marijuana, will admit that running up and down an athletic field and trying to perform competitively at a high level becomes very difficult to sustain. This is a way in which marijuana definitely harms the body: it damages the lungs to smoke marijuana. Now this can be rationalized away by saying that the effects are short-lived and that one’s lungs can recover, etc. But it raises a very important point, which is that instead of acknowledging that one is engaging in a behavior that no matter how pleasurable is self-harming and self-destructive, one tends to push this realization out of conscious awareness so that it does not interfere with use- this is flirting with the addictive mindset where drug-seeking behavior takes precedence over life-affirming behavior.
Michael: I think this is also an example of how young people do not appreciate the consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, life teaches us that we will not always be young, have good lungs, and be able to perform in life with endless reserves of energy. Not to mention the fact that their youth and health are not infinite and should be valued and cherished.
Andrew: Agreed. Marijuana use can definitely lull you into taking things for granted and it can create a mindset where you are susceptible to shading the obvious truths. I think that the French word for drugs “stupefiants” is appropriate, because marijuana, like most if not all drugs, negatively impacts mental performance and memory- making users, if not “stupid” definitely less competent. I recall smoking marijuana and trying to read casebooks in law school: and while you can do it and there were brilliant people who smoked marijuana and excelled in school, these people tended to be the exception- and it never improved my performance- in fact quite the opposite. When I was honest with myself, which was rare when I was using marijuana, I realized that smoking marijuana and trying to perform any sort of intellectual work would be like trying to run a foot race wearing ski boots: you can do it but it’s a little bit absurd and pointless from a practical standpoint. Again, the key takeaway is being honest with yourself and confronting reality, and when you are under the influence of a substance like marijuana you are no longer living in reality but an altered state of reality. Now this can be a pleasurable excursion but done enough and eventually you are no longer living in the real world and your thoughts, actions, and behaviors will all tend to deviate away from the things that you would normally seek out, value, and pursue when not under the influence. This can be particularly insidious for young people because they still do not really know who they are and what is important to them in forging a life and identity and adding something to that clouds and confuses their thinking can make finding traction and discovering a trajectory in life all the more difficult. Sometimes at a young age the most important thing is simply to feel that you fit in and belong to a group and it’s too bad if a fundamental characteristic of the group is using a substance like marijuana- not because marijuana is so bad in of itself, but because groupthink can take over a young person’s mind and they deviate away from actions that would more accurately conform with their values when they are living in the real world. Marijuana use can become an ingrained pattern and hijack the thinking of the user such that they believe that they are still in control of their lives but really the focus of their lives has become preserving access to marijuana so that it can be regularly used.
Michael: Marijuana use leads to minors associating with other minors who likewise use marijuana- part of the herd mentality that you alluded to. I see all the time how this leads to an increase in criminal activity by minors to support their drug use- often seemingly “innocent” at first; perhaps theft from family and friends, but soon escalating to more serious property crime. Depending on the crimes being committed to support their drug habit, it can also lead to juvenile court charges and school suspensions/expulsions. Basically, you are who you hang out with- for better or for worse.
Andrew: I think that you are onto something with this observation. When I look back on the time that I spent using marijuana it has the potential to socially isolate you around a group that finds the one thing they have in common is marijuana use and it also isolates you from people who choose not to use. Again, this is not to suggest that all marijuana use is unhealthy and that all people who use are unsavory thieves with no morals but it pays to be aware of the people that you are spending time with and how you are spending your time- individuals need to learn to value their time and respect themselves. Looking back on my own experience, marijuana steals time from you because it can lull you into spending time with people that are simply mutually supporting use of marijuana without anything really sustaining a relationship or friendship- basically people that you have nothing in common with and no reason to be associating with- people that are not contributing anything positive to your life. In a sense, marijuana use can promote dishonesty with ourselves because we will rationalize our behavior to deny the fact that we are engaging in self-destructive, self-defeating behavior cloaked in the guise of innocent fun. And there is the danger that the instant gratification mentality that marijuana use fosters can be lead to anti-social behaviors such as stealing to support access to marijuana. It’s all part of a cycle that is very negative and it demonstrates the way that any kind of substance use can hijack our good judgment and decision-making.