Marijuana And The Adolescent Mind
There was a very well-written article in The Globe And Mail Toronto newspaper on youth and marijuana use. It compared two youth who were purported to use marijuana heavily. One used two or three times per week on weekends while the other has been using heavily since Grade six. Both are about twenty-years-old. Let us look at them and so understand the culture. The weekend user says he is a heavy user but that marijuana has never interfered with his concentration or memory. He still gets over 80% in his exams, works part-time, and is a competitive swimmer. No mention was made about when he started. The other was so heavily into using that he had to go to a treatment centre, stopping five times on the journey to smoke a joint. He was described as forever a “trouble-maker” and “risk-taker”, fighting even in Grade 4. He has poor grades and no interest in school. The article suggested that “the best they can say is that cannabis will likely turn out to be neither devastating for most teens, nor benign for all of them”. I would like to disagree and call attention to certain facts that are in the article but not visibly pronounced.
The fact that the first boy is using only on weekends but also studies, works part-time, and swims competitively suggests that, prior to adolescence, he was a focused, disciplined, and responsible youth. One cannot become a competitive swimmer as a Johnny-come-lately. The same can be said about his academics and other interests. That he is using only on weekends, even as he says, heavily, suggests that he has not developed a lot of options to cover his free time. Marijuana is his down-time activity. On the other hand, that the other boy has been a “trouble-maker” and “risk-taker” suggests permissive or neglected childhood rather than a disciplined one. Thus, the development that could have been realized from competitive sports and academic discipline were not part of his upbringing. Marijuana, for him, was not a down-time activity. It quickly became his life.
What we see is the reason that youth use. One uses because he may have had a strict childhood without much casual activity. He created balance later in life by using marijuana. He will likely increase his use but only when life becomes more demanding as everyone needs balance and his is marijuana. This may take some time. The other uses because of entitlement. He has been free to just treat himself. Whatever treat he uses becomes his right. In this case it is marijuana. So, marijuana did not cause the personality or attitude. The attitude invited the use of marijuana – freely to the one who grew up with freedom and entitlement, and therapeutically to the one who grew up with discipline but not enough balance.
The problem with marijuana is that it is bad because it is good. It is good at disconnecting youth from life, responsibilities, cognition. That, like sleep, is a good thing for everyone as a normal down time from the work of mental development. It is bad if it interferes with mental development and growth. One does not just sleep continuously. Marijuana simply becomes the master. Unlike sleep, it dictates the depth and duration of disconnection. The best antidote for youth, therefore, is not to focus on taking away their little treat but on teaching them to have more natural treats while realizing their main goal of developing and realizing mental strength. To do this, they must be encouraged to build the core but also to relax the body, to stimulate the core, but also to treat it with natural relaxation like social, non-competitive sport, or entertainment all within controlled exposure. Marijuana can stagnate that core development if you let it.