Statistics have shown “just saying no to drugs” is not effective for most teens
As of today, the use of cannabis for medical purposes is legal in 33 states, plus the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia. Ten states (plus DC and several countries) have legalized recreational marijuana.
The question is: If you are a Parent or Teen, how does marijuana affect your life?
This magazine interviewed Marc Aronoff, the author of the book The Cannabis Craze: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teens.
The book addresses teen marijuana uses in a straight-forward manner offering parents and teens options for being “smart” about a controversial subject. It also tackles a unique truth: statistics have shown “just saying no to drugs” is not effective for most teens. If an adolescent chooses to smoke marijuana, and his or her mind is made-up, it is almost impossible to stop them. If this is true, there is a need for parents and teens to be skillful about the subject.
Marc Aronoff, MA, is a free-lance writer and Licensed Mental Health Counselor with over 25 years experience working with teens and youth at risk. He is the Executive Director of The Berkshire Project, Inc. and has published various feature articles in local and national magazines.
-La Familia de Broward: Why do you think the approach has changed from “say no to drugs to minimize the risks”?
-Marc Aronoff: While studies have indicated the “science” behind “just say no to drugs” does not work, the moral construct of a sound and healthy attitude toward drug use is needed. Human beings are complex creatures: we often do what we know is not good for us and often make decisions based on feelings rather than rational thought. That, in part, is the reason “just say no” to drugs does not work. In retrospect we find other factors, in particular parenting decisions, play a more influential role in teen drug use. Still we humans will always be in need of a certain ability for “impulse control” and ‘just saying no’ may be in order at more than one moment in the course of a day. The reality is, other factors than ‘just say no’ allow for the effective mitigation of drug related risks.
In my roles as a Licensed Counselor working with teens, I have seen a steady increase in adolescent clients smoking marijuana on a daily basis. According to the latest research teen use of marijuana is at its highest level in 30 years. As more adults smoke pot, more teens feel the drug is harmless. With 33 States and the District of Columbia offering Medical Marijuana to anyone over the age of 21, there has never been in the history of the United States a more open attitude toward marijuana use.
LF: In your years as a counselor, can you tell that teens are better off marijuana or not?
-MA: I cannot say if teens are better not smoking marijuana today or not. It all depends on the teen, why they are smoking, how they are doing at school and socially, and the interactions with adults. I do believe as a whole, marijuana (certainly in excess) is less potentially lethal than alcohol. In the long run, parents play an influential role in the development for “better or worse” in their teens social and educational success.
– LF: How can a parent that finds out their teen is using marijuana need to approach the issue?
-MA: In my new book, “The Cannabis Craze: A Practical Guide for Parents and Teens” I outline many ways a parent can approach their teen, if they find out he or she is smoking pot. Some tips on discussing marijuana include:
*Ask your child to give examples of the effects of marijuana.
*If you choose to talk to your child about your own experiences with drugs, be honest about why you used and the pressures that contributed to your use. Be careful not to minimize the dangers of marijuana or other drugs, and be open about any negative experiences you may have had.
*Explain that research tells us that the brain continues to mature into the 20s. While it is developing, there is greater risk of harm from marijuana use.
– LF: Are you in favor or against the legalization of recreational marijuana?
-MA: Yes and no. I am for adults making conscious decisions that help them to cope, relax, and thrive more effectively in life, including improved honesty, intimacy, sleep, and productivity. If marijuana and the legalization of pot allows for that, yes, I am in favor. If excess use, depression, and a decrease in productivity are the results of legalization, I have serious concerns. In my current state of Massachusetts, marijuana became legal this year (2019). And the lines are around the block at dispensaries for adult (over 21) customers to make a purchase. Clearly adults think they are ready. As for teen use, the topic is not so clear. Yet, teens continue to smoke pot in increasing numbers. In fact, today more teens smoke pot than cigarettes. It is a unique time for American teens as we blur the lines between increased adult pot use and the potential message: pot is harmless. Excess is never harmless. We humans certainly have a history of over doing a good thing. Hopefully, the deeper questions of setting good examples for our children while cultivating equanimity in our daily lives, will have the final say.