Thursday, March 15, 2012
Today, I attended a conference that focused on the damage drugs and alcohol can do to the adolescent brain. Most people in the audience were not worried about the effects of marijuana; they were focused on alcohol and 'hard' drugs. In fact, some even defended the position the MA DCF has taken - that removal of children for parental abuse of marijuana is not going to happen.
Yet, these attendees learned today that marijuana may not be a 'gateway' in the traditional sense, but it is harmful nevertheless. It takes approximately 18-24 months for a person to stop depending upon marijuana after discontinuing abuse through harm reduction. And in fact, withdrawal really happens; including mood swings, depression and irritability during protracted withdrawal.
The adolescent brain is not fully formed and smoking marijuana at a young age impedes the user's ability to hold memories and interpret cognitions properly. Smoking causes cognitive distortions.
Developmentally , using drugs and alcohol does not allow the user to progress from adolescence to adulthood emotionally. They get stuck - something we refer to as arrested development.
Most young people begin smoking cannabis around 11 or 12 years old. Research demonstrates that if a 'father figure' is smoking in the home when a child is 6 years old, the child will most likely grow up smoking marijuana as well within 5 or 6years. That makes me wonder whose idea it was at DCF to decide not to consider marijuana as a serious issue.
Smoking marijuana is a serious issue. It is not the cannabis of the 1960's; but cannabis that is ten times stronger. It is not a joke, or a casual source of entertainment. It is a substitute for skills we have not taught our young people. Skills that will help them manage their lives in a more balanced way.