Wooton: Downplaying marijuana damage only hurts kids

(Second of two parts)

By Will Wooton

The largest effect of marijuana is neurological. The main psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC targets the specific brain cells or cannabinoid receptors that are in the highest concentration found in sections of the brain dealing with pleasure, learning, concentration, coordination and memory. These areas show measurably lower functioning when someone smokes not only for that day but also for weeks afterward.

Will Wooton

Few drugs have such a long-lasting effect in the brain. This is due to the brain being made up largely of fatty tissue and THC binds and is stored in fat cells. The more someone ingests the more is stored. This is why marijuana is detected in drug tests for much longer than most other drugs.

Anytime you artificially introduce chemicals that create a flood of dopamine in the brain there is a potential for dependence. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and sends signals from one nerve cell to another. In the case of marijuana, THC targeting these receptors creates the “high” and a feeling of euphoria is created. Anytime you have a drug that creates such pleasure there is a possibility for abuse.

Now I’d like to be clear: not everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted. Addiction doesn’t work like that. Some people can ingest drugs with relativity little effect on their lives. For some it takes control. Brains respond differently. People have different psychological experiences, different genetics. Some have a glass of wine at dinner and some drink until they lose everything. The line of addiction is crossed when the substance that is abused affects a person’s life in significant ways and they still don’t stop.

Marijuana is no different. It can be used with little effect being shown on a person’s life or it can tear apart a family. Since I work with teens and by extension families, I’ve seen kids choose smoking pot over friends, sports, school, jobs and just about anything worthwhile. It is clear that marijuana use by teens is much higher than in the general adult population. Ask any teenager how hard it is to buy marijuana at school and most will tell you it’s available daily.

Downplaying the damage that smoking marijuana can do only hurts kids. Teenage brains are still developing into the early 20s. An area of the teenager’s brain that is fairly well developed early on is the area that seeks pleasure and reward. This means that early on we know what feels good and how to seek it out. We know to smoke marijuana feels good and that the more we do it the better we feel. The section that takes the longest to develop is a section of the brain that thinks about outcomes, forms judgment. Also longest to develop are sections that regulate and control impulses or emotions. So what we have is a brain that knows what feels good yet doesn’t have the maturity to think through or control emotional decisions. As with anything developing, adding chemicals to a brain has a cost.

Teens are more likely to have addiction issues the younger that they use as a kid. Marijuana stunts progression of brain development thereby creating psychosocial changes in perception of the world around them. If you alter someone’s ability to make good choices throughout life you can bet the lasting effect will hurt us all when they are adults.

We all base our reactions and thoughts mostly on personal first-hand experience. Many of us in this country have smoked marijuana. Many of us know people who do it in a seemingly harmless way. In thinking about the idea of legalization I hope we can all dig deeper. Our own arrogance that because we did or do it and are fine doesn’t mean that it’s that way for everyone. The message that our teens are hearing is that it’s safe to use. Factual-based conversations will be needed, but saying marijuana is natural or hurting our economy by having it illegal or that it’s safe is all just untrue.

Wooton is director of Pacific Treatment Services and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink”. PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults. Website: www.PacificTreatmentServices.com.

Short URL: http://www.pomeradonews.com/?p=32561

Posted by Staff on Jan 30 2013. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Comments for “Wooton: Downplaying marijuana damage only hurts kids”

  1. Sherrie

    Simply put…. You have two baby plants / one gets water – sun, vitamins –
    The second gets water, sun, vitamins and gasoline poured on its roots – which has a better chance at healthy strong roots developing ? It's that simple …..

  2. Debra Shilling

    I've started mailing the paper to my friends in Colorado because of Mr Wootons articles. Can you add a contact number for him?

  3. Duncan20903

    Are there really people stupid enough to compare cannabis to gasoline?

    • Michele

      Why not? Gasoline is "natural" and comes from the ground just like cannabis! It too is refined and made into a substance that is stronger than its natural properties. And the point of her post is not that we should drink gasoline, but not to make available ANY substance that alters the brains of kids.

      • Krymsun

        .. and what better way to limit the access to cannabis than legalizing and Regulating it?? Prohibition is NOT regulating who can buy it; just the opposite, as dealers don't ask ID, and Weed may not be all they sell, exposing buyers, adolescents and adults to other drugs. Prohibition is the actual gateway to more dangerous drugs.

        Secondly, 'Marijuana does not cause physiological dependence though in some, it can cause slight psychological dependence, but is not as addictive as coffee.' ["In fact, numerous polls of scientists and extensive research on humans and animals reveal that the plant’s addictive potential is less than that of caffeine." - http://dailycaller.com/2012/07/22/marijuana-isnt-...

        Must be nice, to get paid to treat such a severe addiction. Anyone who asks to be paid more than a baby-sitter to treat marijuana "addiction" is a con-artist.

    • Gerome

      I think you missed the point

  4. Mary

    This article makes sense to me, given the many forms addiction can take, why some people insist that marijuana is not addictive boggles my mind. That being said, I do believe addictive behavior is a product of an obsessive mind, and many activities can therefore become the focus for the addict, sex, gambling, and shopping to name a few.

  5. kathy

    You are sooo right on!

  6. Common Sense Police

    Please stop wasting our tax dollars on this garbage. Marijuana is harmless. Why do the police insist on putting all of us in danger? Prohibition puts all of us in danger because the false value of black market marijuana dealings attracts street gangs, cartels, and violence, over a plant you can grow along with your carrots and tomatoes. The police lobby for prohibition because then they get federal tax dollars and all they have to do is arrest harmless American citizens. Violent cartels and gangs want prohibition because they get the entire market to themselves, hundreds of billions annually, and the police make sure you are getting your harmless plants from them. You and I, American citizens, get our lives ruined for using a harmless plant that has myriad medical uses but doesn't harm you and isn't addictive.

    Does it make sense to ANYONE that substance A which is addictive, poisonous, causes belligerent intoxication, violence, and death, is available in every corner store while the mere possession of substance B which isn't addictive, is non-toxic, causes euphoric relaxation and is a very effective medicine, can ruin your life?

    Marijuana is harmless, prohibition kills.

  7. Amy

    If you are to get anything out of this article read the facts he provides and zero in on his concern, "The message that our teens are hearing is that it’s safe to use. Factual-based conversations will be needed…"

  8. Gerome

    lol, if only this was paid for by tax dollars. wow, do tax dollars just fund everything you find offensive or unnecessary?

  9. Garrett

    A needed breath of fresh air after many propagandized articles about the “medicinal” plant that is changing the face of mental health and the idea of what a “drug” is. There is so much just plain bull out there, glad to see a straight shooter.

  10. Karen

    This two part article was very informative. It is so important to look at what our attitudes and behaviors say to youth. Some may want to legalize marijuana, but with that comes unintended consequences. It is important to peal away the layers of this issue and be fully informed. Thank you for making sure this consequence is also considered in the debate.

  11. Dawn

    Excellent two part article that addresses many misconceptions. Thank you Will for informing the community in detail what the issue of marijuana use looks like for our youth. Your article has been shared with colleagues across the nation as we move forward informing communities about the importance of sound and necessary drug policies.

  12. mom of 3

    How can a kid meet his potential if he or she just sits on the couch all day? They should be out socializing with people, learning, having fun! Experiencing LIFE. I don't think pot motivates anyone.

    • Tom Yarnall

      mom, sorry, but I think pot does motivate them. It motivates them to use laced pot and it motivates many of them to use harder drugs, ending with doing anything to to help feed their addiction..

      • Don't knock it

        @Tom, you should try some weed. For no other reason than to understand how ignorant you sound.

        • Tom Yarnall

          Don't, thanks for the compliment. I'll pass your remark on to the many grieving parents of families decimated by their children's drug use, starting with marijuana. I'm sure they will want to invite you over for dinner,
          I have never tried marijuana and never will because I am happy without it. What is your excuse?

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