Marijuana – medical or not!

I have been watching with great interest the ongoing debate of the legalization of marijuana here in Oregon. Regardless of whether this becomes law or not, I doubt very much that there will be any lessening of marijuana use, especially by teens, and in fact I suspect the opposite. At present any teenager who wants marijuana can find it quickly and easily. The myth that those with a medical marijuana license only use it for themselves is totally without foundation as it is without any checks whatsoever. The argument that there are medical reasons for making marijuana legal, do not impress me at all. I cannot state that it has no medical use as I am not a physician. Currently in this state, those with a medical marijuana license are allowed to grow their own drug, and are allowed 6 mature plants. Why I find this strange is that normally, patients are not expected or encouraged to make their own antibiotics or birth control pills. Why should marijuana for medical reasons be any different? If marijuana is to be used for any medical purpose it should be treated as any other drug and prescribed accordingly and the patient monitored by a physician.
After working with families of drug addicts since 2003 I have also come to this conclusion on marijuana. Contrary to what many people say, I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. Use of marijuana encourages reliance on using a mind altering substance to help deal with the problems of life. Sadly, teens are encouraged to look for a fast fix, be it a legal or illegal drug, to take care of their problems. As their use increases, their ability to get a high from the drug diminishes. Now, the patterns and habit are set, so the search for another better drug begins. To add to this, the places where marijuana can be obtained is often the very best place to make purchases of other drugs. This is due to those who use marijuana as a recreational drug, also often use other drugs and are willing to share the names of local dealers. I believe this will still hold true regardless of whether the purchase is made from an illegal backyard grow, or the store front on Main Street.
Over the years I have had many families of users, and drug users themselves, tell me that their first experience of drugs was with marijuana, and my personal experience with a drug user in my life bears this out. In 1997 I had a business partner who had been a previous drug user, first of marijuana and later marijuana and methamphetamine. When we became partners she was clean and supportive of drug education to stop others from taking the path she chose. Sadly, by 2003, she was once again heavily involved in drugs and also theft. At that time she also shared my house while I was working away. I discovered that she was not only using heavily but was allowing drug deals on the front porch. She gradually spiraled downwards into uncontrolled meth use. My house was trashed and she finally went to jail after attacking me while tweaking.
I found there was little help or support for friends or the family of drug users and at that time I had no idea about the danger from fires, theft, infection, animal abuse, lying, blackmail, drug dealing and assault. This prompted the development of my website, where I provide information for those whose lives are affected by drug use. I also offer coaching for families and provide a service to help identify drug paraphernalia. Had I known what I was looking at, I would have understood the odor of marijuana and the look of a pipe much sooner than I did.
My book, The Dangers of Living with a Drug Addict is available from Amazon or can be found via the website above. My next book, a true fiction account of the chaos caused by meth should be out this fall.

Teens and Addiction. Turning the tide.

What do we really need to do to turn the tide of more and more teens becoming addicted, especially to prescription opiates? Consider this: I currently see millions of dollars being spent of Rehab, Counseling, drug courts, and the like. These are all ‘after-the-fact’ repair mechanisms and do not deal with the root cause.  In my opinion we do not give our young people the knowledge or life-skills that they need to be able to take care of themselves. We also keep them ‘children’ for way too long.

What do I mean by this? Let me explain.  All creatures learn survival skills from their parents and the similar creatures around them. These skills begin at birth and continue until adulthood. Adulthood usually means the time that they can reproduce. This applies to animals as well as humans. In many cultures, viewed by the western world as primitive, children learn all adult skills from very small. They learn the dangers:  – fire burns and knives cut – by seeing and eventually doing.  By the time they reach puberty, they are ready to be accepted into the adult community. They have a place and a responsibility. They are raised, for the most part, to support their community as well as their mate and children – not just their own children but all the children of the community. They know that the survival of their community depends on teaching the children what they need to know.  So the cycle continues.

In our society we have come too far from this natural model. Please bear with me while I explain what I mean. We isolate our children, often from birth, into unnatural groups; childcare, babysitters, early childhood learning, kindergarten, grade school……and on and on.  If that were not bad enough, we keep them tied to an isolated group of age mates until they are at least 18 years old. This is at least 5 years beyond puberty and the ability to reproduce. We give them no ‘place’ in our society so they have created a place for themselves – Teenagers!

I hear so much about Troubled Teens, The Problems of the Teen years, Teen Hormones etc . When you think about this, it is pretty ridiculous. We do not talk about Twentyagers as a group nor yet Fortyagers, so why Teenagers? Because they have had to defined themselves to give them the power that we are denying them.  By the time people reach the twenties, they are at last perceived as adults and mix freely with people of all ages. Alongside that we have a huge, and I do mean huge industry built on this Teenage culture. Everything from Teen music to teen clothes to the best drugs for teen problems. Ritalin comes to mind here, which  has made millions for the pharmaceutical companies.  Also we have a self fulfilling prophecy as we expect the ‘teens’ to have problems. This is far from the expectations of the primitive society who expect a young person to be an asset to the whole community.

So what are we, this wonderful western society that we have created, teaching your young people about themselves? We teach them that they are an isolated group. They have no actual purpose in our lives.  We do not need them in our communities. They serve no useful purpose until they emerge as a twentyager, where hopefully they can find some productive work. They are constantly reminded that the teen years are hard. That teenagers cause problems. That teenagers ARE a problem and we, the wise ones here, are working on a solution to the problem.  Is it any wonder that they turn to drugs and alcohol? I do not think so!

What is the answer? I think our whole society needs a swift re-evaluation of the situation that we have created. Teenager are not a problem to be solved. If they were allowed to be the people they are becoming, the problem would go away – naturally. I homeschooled my daughters and never had a problem with the teen years. Why? Because they were doing adult things in an adult world.

Now I know that homeschooling is not possible or practical for many families so how could we accomplished what I am suggesting? First, the schools need to be totally restructured. In my opinion they need to be structured like a college. From the very first years in a school, the subjects that are needed – reading, math, sciences and living skills need to be divided into courses which the children take in order. Once they achieve proficiency in one course, the go on to the next. This does away with the current group by age and puts each child where they should be, grouped by experience and ability. This should continue until a basic level of proficiency is achieved. By age 12 or so, the young person should have mastered all the basic skills and also living skills. Then they should be directed to use their given gifts to explore what work they will likely be drawn to in the future. Whether it is art or truck engines, nursing or gardening, these skills should be explored with the way they have been done for centuries, by learning from someone already skilled in the craft.