AN HONEST DIALOGUE ABOUT MARIJUANA USE BY MINOR(S) PART 4 of 4
Michael: Moving back to discuss some of the physical costs and side effects of use: pretty much across the board all the medical studies conclude use of marijuana by a minor is harmful to their brains. Definitely some minors are using marijuana for stress relief and self-medication. However if a parent knows this and is aware their minor child is using marijuana then they need to make more inquiries and get a professional opinion. If their child is very depressed then they need professional intervention and possible medication. They do not need to be masking problems by using marijuana.
Andrew: It’s hard to argue against this- it doesn’t matter how brilliant someone is, when they are under the influence of marijuana they will not be able to perform as well or as quickly as when they are clear-headed. Marijuana slows you down and it affects memory, thinking, and judgment. It’s all fun and games when looked at innocently, but if you consider what a struggle it can be just to make it in the world and I am just talking making it, whether it be in school or in the job market or relationships, etc.- I’m not even getting to the point where I am discussing being successful- just making it; it begs the question: why do something to yourself that handicaps your ability to function? Is it because it’s fun? Because it makes you feel good? I don’t know about those reasons when you consider the cost. And don’t get me wrong, as I acknowledge that marijuana can be a pleasurable experience and even the smell of marijuana sometimes can bring back a rush of nostalgic memories. But knowing what you pay for that innocent fun, that’s the point. I don’ think any young person or rather it’s hard to imagine many young people have the perspective and the experience to know what sort of impact the decision to use marijuana can have on their lives.
Michael: Yet, you are advocating for their choice in whether to use marijuana- I’m not sure quite how you reconcile that. However, I also want to mention that I had case involving a juvenile client where I requested that the court allow the minor to smoke medical marijuana. This client had taken prescription medication for ADHD for many years. She got to the point where she would not take any more prescription pills. She started to smoke marijuana on an almost daily basis to cope with her ADHD symptoms. This client did continue to go to school. The client’s parents believed that their daughter’s use of marijuana was absolutely necessary as a support for going to school and staying in school. A psychiatrist wrote the court saying they could not prescribe marijuana but that in the psychiatrist’s professional opinion, the marijuana appeared to be working for the particular client. The judge did approve the use of medical marijuana for this the client.
Andrew: Again, there might be situations where marijuana would be appropriate depending on the individual’s condition. But like the decision to medicate with any substance you have to consider the costs and benefits. If you watch television and see drug commercials you will note that even commonly prescribed medications have side effects that the consumer must consider. Again you also have to ask yourself, if you are a recreational user of marijuana, why are you taking a substance probably better characterized as a medication if you are not sick? And if you are honest with yourself and recognize that you are taking marijuana to self-medicate for depression, anxiety, boredom, or what have you, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself if you are serious about addressing your particular issue and whether marijuana is the best tool for that. Unfortunately, life is short and our time finite, so really there is no time to lose in life heading the wrong direction and solidifying self-defeating patterns of behavior. I guess it all depends on what kind of life people want and what their values are- as that probably will tell you a lot about their actions or explain their actions.
Michael: I want to go on record as stating that I am opposed to parents who have minors still living at home and who openly use marijuana in the home in front of their children, as this sort of permissive behavior sends the wrong message: that it’s ok to smoke marijuana- essentially that it is without consequence.
Andrew: Parents who smoke marijuana in the home definitely send the message to minor children in the home that smoking marijuana is acceptable. I think that this potentially problematic, as it sanctions substance use. But again, it’s a value and personal judgment issue. If an adult believes that marijuana use does not pose a problem and the adult does not have a problem with the message that this sends to the minor child then that is the adult’s choice. I don’t agree with it, as I think that it is irresponsible, but I think that to some extent parents have to have the ability to make these choices. I have noticed that in some instances that stand out in my mind that children with parents or older siblings that habitually use marijuana will often notice the negative effects of marijuana use and this actually strongly encourages them not to use. Like in any situation then decision to use marijuana is impacted by the individual’s own character and values and life experience.
Michael: Well, I feel more strongly about this and think that it is a real problem for a parent to condone permissive drug use: its sets a terrible example for the child and paves the way for real problems down the road. Trying to get a minor to stop using marijuana if one of their parents possesses it at home is very difficult. Even if the parent thinks they have it properly secured and kept it away from the minor, in most cases, the minor will figure out a way to get their hands on it.
Andrew: That’s a valid point: the whole forbidden fruit being more desirable situation. Besides most parents will be away at work for much of the day or evening when a minor child has the run of the house and can more than likely find and use marijuana with relative impunity. I think that like any drug-seeking and use cycles of behavior if young and impressionable person becomes consumed in patterns of behavior that revolve around substance use then it can pose real problems. Breaking a marijuana addiction can be physically and psychologically difficult, despite the thought that marijuana is a “soft” drug. Those who become habitual marijuana users may find that walking away from using marijuana is not as easy as they hoped or anticipated. After all if you are regularly using marijuana or any substance to “solve” some sort of emotional or psychological problem you have to ask two questions: (1) how successful is marijuana in addressing the underlying problem or is it simply masking the problem; and (2) once you stop using marijuana as a coping mechanism what will it be like to confront the problem that you were using marijuana as a crutch or shield to do deal with?
Michael: Parents who do not believe that marijuana use by minors is harmful to them send the wrong message to their child. You have a limited time available to effectively parent your child so they can grow up to be healthy and wise and hopefully make their way in the world. I think, that in this highly competitive world, parents are well advised to take this responsibility seriously and do the best that they can to teach their children values that will give them the resources, physical, psychological, and emotional, that are necessary to succeed in the world. To do the opposite is in a sense a criminal dereliction of a parent’s duty to prepare their child to make it on their own.
Andrew works in house for a local business/corporation/non-profit. We thank him very much for his valuable contribution to these articles.