Youth talk: Reasons not to smoke pot even if everyone else smokes pot
SCIENTISTS call it cannabis. But you may know it better as marijuana, pot, reefer, grass, ganja, or simply weed. Call it what you wish, smoking marijuana is a regular pastime for millions of young people.
The book The Private Life of the American Teenager reports a survey of 160,000 U.S. teenagers. Some 70 percent of the 16- to 18-year-olds polled admitted having at least tried marijuana. About half said they regularly used it. And even if you are one of the relatively few that have steered clear of drugs, you know how widespread marijuana’s influence is. Rock lyrics extol it. Your schoolmates may openly use it. “Even the guards at our school are selling pot,” says one youth. Drug paraphernalia is openly displayed and sold. Why, marijuana use has become so common that 14-year-old Katie says: “It’s not even the ‘in’ thing anymore. It’s just part of everybody’s life almost.”
Nevertheless, ‘everybody’ isn’t smoking marijuana. In fact, according to recent surveys taken in the United States and Canada, a growing number of youths are turning thumbs down on this drug. Surveys notwithstanding, an alarming number of youths are still risking their parents’ wrath, financial strain (a “moderate” marijuana habit can cost anywhere from $5 to $50 a week in the United States), run-ins with the law, and possible health risks, just so they can enjoy a marijuana high. Does this mean, then, that you should try smoking marijuana? In answer, let’s first consider why it is so popular.
Why Pot Is So Popular
Some youths turn to marijuana as a refuge from problems. Says 17-year-old Roger: “I like getting high. If you have a lot of problems, you forget them.” Some use the drug to ease depression or boredom. Others try marijuana simply to satisfy their curiosity. And says the book Adolescence: “Having friends who use marijuana greatly increases an adolescent’s chances of trying it.” This does not necessarily mean that youths are pressured or somehow coerced into smoking marijuana (although this can happen). But as the book Self-Destructive Behavior in Children and Adolescents observes: “The youthful are most often introduced or ‘turned on’ to the various drugs by a close friend . . . [His] intentions may be to share an exciting or pleasurable experience.”
But regardless of how or why they get started, surveys show that the biggest reason youths continue using marijuana is for the sheer pleasure of it. Says 17-year-old Grant: “I smoke only for its effects. Not to be cool or for social reasons. . . . I never smoked because of peer pressure, but just because I wanted to.”
But are any of these valid reasons for you to try marijuana? Is it wise, for example, to take a chemical refuge from problems. The youth that hides behind a drug-induced euphoria ‘loves inexperience’; he fails to develop the knowledge and skills needed to cope with life. Say the authors of Talking With Your Teenager: “Using drugs and alcohol can interfere with that process [of developing adult skills] by providing a way to avoid experiencing negative feelings or struggling through difficult events. The lesson that life’s painful moments can be survived without these substances never gets learned.”
Suppose, though, that many of your friends have experimented with marijuana? “It’s hard [to resist] when your friends turn to it,” confesses one 16-year-old marijuana user. However, “You must not follow after the crowd.” Too, someone who unquestioningly follows his peers is nothing more than a slave.
Learn to think for yourself, and you’ll not be inclined to follow wayward youths. True, you may be curious about marijuana and its effects. But you need not pollute your mind and body to know what this drug does to people. Observe young ones your age who smoke marijuana—especially those who have done so over a long period of time. Do they seem alert and sharp? Have they kept up their grades? Or are they dull and inattentive, at times even unaware of what is going on around them? A term was coined by marijuana smokers themselves to describe such ones: “burn-outs.” Yet many “burn-outs” likely started smoking marijuana out of curiosity.
But what about the great pleasure that getting high supposedly brings? Unfortunately, many things bring not only pleasure but also pain. Overindulgence in alcohol, for example, may seem pleasurable. To the drunkard, wine “gives off its sparkle in the cup,” and when swallowed, “it goes with a slickness”. Could an indulgence in marijuana prove similarly ‘poisonous’? Says a booklet produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “The most common adverse reaction to marijuana is a state of anxiety, sometimes accompanied by paranoid thoughts; these can range from general suspicion to a fear of losing control and going crazy. . . . Some marijuana users may need professional help.”
Add to this the health risks. Highly publicized reports indicate that marijuana is a real health hazard! Curiously, though, when asked, “Do you think smoking pot is bad for your health?” almost half of a group of young marijuana smokers answered no! Explain the authors of Talking With Your Teenager: “Many teenagers aren’t persuaded by these health considerations, partly because they are so resilient and full of vitality that they don’t believe their health will suffer. This feeling of ‘invulnerability’ is very common in adolescence. Teenagers see lung cancer, alcoholism, heavy drug addiction, as things that happen to people who are older, not to them.”
“When I started smoking marijuana,” recalls a young man named David, “I had heard plenty of adults saying it was bad for you. Frankly, I didn’t believe them. After all, I had friends who smoked it, and my friends didn’t seem to be any the worse for it. The horror stories I heard from the older generation did not jibe with what I was seeing. So I figured it was just a lot of propaganda.”
David, though, learned the hard way that some of these “horror stories” were true. You, too, should not be fooled into thinking you are somehow invulnerable to harm because you are young. Abuse your mind and body, and you may have to pay for it sooner than you think. Use your thinking ability, and avoid irresponsible risks.
You Can Say No!
A booklet published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (U.S.) reminds us: “Turning down the chance to use a drug. . . is your right. Any friends who lean on you about your decision are chipping away at your rights as a free individual.” So, what can you do if someone offers you marijuana? Have the courage to say no! This does not necessarily mean giving a sermon on the evils of drug abuse. The same booklet suggested simply replying, “No thanks, I don’t want to smoke” or, “Nope, don’t want the hassle” or even quipping, “I’m not into body pollution.” But better yet, let others know your stand. They may decide it’s best to leave you alone.
Others may or may not appreciate your decision. But remember: It’s your mind, your body, and your life that are at stake.
Only 29 percent of the marijuana smokers in the above survey felt that their parents knew of their habit, and almost half said they would lie about it if asked. “Teenagers see lung cancer, alcoholism, heavy drug addiction, as things that happen to people who are older, not to them”