Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I’ve been following your ongoing dialog about marijuana, and I have to say that when you look at kids who smoke it for non-medicinal reasons and just goof around, and you see pot as The New Big Problem to attack, you are missing an important point:
if the kids weren’t smoking pot, they would be doing something else. It is the nature of young, angst-ridden teens to try things, to explore, alter their chemistry and fling themselves into experiences without looking. This is just what they do.
If they didn’t smoke pot, they would not turn into clear-headed, upright citizens with productive lives. They are teens, for god’s sake.
They would simply start drinking instead. Or drag racing. Or Trying hard drugs, or hopping trains.
Do you actually see all that as a better alternative somehow?
I have to ask this question: considering that pot is the ONE drug that has never killed anyone with an overdose, and that although it has side effects like anything else, including sugar, it is far less corrosive to the human body than any other substance kids might turn to…
why are you so obsessed with trying to remove it from circulation and just make kids quit?
I agree that teenagers experiment; they are supposed to. But in their experimentation they should be learning about themselves through disappointments and failures as well as through successes and achievements. Teen years are for developing and practicing skills that will more or less determine the quality of the life they will achieve. I see many teens who can’t be challenged. They have no inner sense of themselves to be able to overcome adversity if exposed to it. They avoid difficulties, throw tantrums, and argue, but cannot solve problems.
Studies don’t show that if teens don’t use marijuana they will try hard drugs instead, in fact studies show just the opposite. There is enough of a taboo against hard drugs and media news of people dying that most teens are put off by the notion. This has little to do with marijuana, which is marketed very differently from heroin.
What I find particularly dangerous and off putting about marijuana is in how it works. It raises a chemical in the brain “dopamine.” Dopamine is the chemical behind pleasure, learning, and creativity. It is part of a feedback loop- when you actively do something or create something, dopamine rises to make you feel pleasure in your act and then reinforces you to do again. Raising this chemical through an external, unearned means like smoking pot makes you feel you accomplished something but you didn’t. There is no need too. This is what causes the unmotivated stoner archetype- you feel like you’re doing something but you really aren’t. It makes you think you’re more creative than you really are and believe you are being social when in reality you aren’t leaning those abilities. Social skills have to do with conflict resolution and communication- not just feeling socially connected by sitting on the couch next to someone.
Feeling good without earning it also encourages avoidant behavior. I see too many people avoid life and conflict rather than negotiating or dealing with it. Life isn’t perfect; there is and always will be suffering. Success requires real creativity, real flexibility and the ability to deal with failure and conflict.
If you don’t develop skills to deal with stress in your teen years, you often never will. I believe avoiding conflict and suffering in the short term causes suffering in the long term.
I believe the most valuable thing humans have is our free will. In fact I believe it is what makes us human. When we bypass the normal learning feedback circuit in the brain and feel good without doing anything to deserving it, we don’t develop the skills to make choices. I believe this subjugates our free will.
Just because marijuana won’t kill you like heroin will doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous to the overall well-being of our teens.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I understand that Dr. Brilliant is alarmed by the manner in which the dysfunctional teens who come through his office use marijuana. However, using dysfunctional teens as the standard by which to gauge the overall effect of pot is like judging the health benefits of red wine by how it affects dysfunctional alcoholics. It is a fact that many of the people who are high achievers in our society are known to smoke pot. The difference is that for high achievers, pot is just something they use…and for abusers, marijuana is something that uses them.
In light of that, here’s the facts- tobacco and alcohol are the top abused substances in this country today. They are both legal and socially acceptable…and responsible for ruining millions of lives and causing illness and premature death. In addition, alcohol causes avoidant behavior and arrested social skills and inflates people’s perception to make them feel they are more gregarious, creative and happy than they really are. If we are making a comparison, apples to apples, in my opinion alcohol and tobacco are both far more dangerous to human health than pot. As to the psychological dangers of pot? Of course, there are dangers. It’s a powerful substance and in the wrong hands, it can be damaging. But I do not think that the best way to get the facts across is by trying to shove them down people’s throats.
I take a different attitude towards teens and drugs than Dr. Brilliant. Rather than lecturing about all the dangers, I think it best to educate about drug realities in a different way.
Teens have finely honed bullshit detectors. If you rant statistics and studies at them, they know you are talking to them from behind a desk. You haven’t been there. You haven’t experienced it first hand. This is why teens resist counseling. A therapist might listen to the dysfunctional people who come into their office, and take notes and read studies and preach…but to teens it’s all just bullshit. It doesn’t interest them or register with them. It’s just another earnest, dull adult trying to tell them what to do. Blah, blah, blah.
In order to understand the realities of drugs, teens need to listen to real people, from their own socioeconomic level, who have lost their lives to drugs. Ex-addicts have zero bullshit left anywhere in them. They aren’t blowing hot air and theories. They know. Teens understand this right away and listen to them in a way that they would never listen to a therapist; I think that a visit to a Narcotics Anonymous or AA meeting would be a real eye opener.
It’s one thing to “know” the truth. But it’s quite another thing to communicate the truth so that people can hear it and be helped by it. Lecturing does not make teens receptive. It makes them turn off and decide to lie to you about everything they do.
More people kill themselves with sugar (think diabetes, cancer and heart disease) in this country every day than with marijuana. Should we start a campaign against sugar? Should we scream at parents who give their kids candy and tell them it’s setting them up for a lifetime of problems? Yeah, that’d go over big.
You can’t force people to do the right thing by ranting at them. However, if you offer them a realistic perspective, sometimes they actually figure it out themselves. In truth, that is the ONLY way for real change to happen.