Day 136 (Of 185) personal view on 4/20
“Marijuana has gone mainstream” claimed one headline on drudge report. And as an educator, this worries me – especially when so many “truths” are one-sided, and for the most part, my personal view is significantly one-sided. Some of the key topics that rise to the top of my list include:
Societies continue to evolve – that is good, especially when it focuses on equality for gender(s) and cultures(s) and race(s). But for some reason while the focus on health has decreased tobacco use and changed some awareness around alcohol, what was seen illicit drug use has become more acceptable. So I have some concerns knowing that already we have students entering school under the influence of drugs (and under the influence that drugs aren’t harmful) – and in many areas, marijuana is the clear choice – and wondering what the issue is…what happens if/when it’s normalized….that it’s used for more than medical purposes (so….does that mean a teacher can come in and teach after using legalized marijuana….with a prescription? without?) and know some tough choices need to be made before Canada’s government makes a decision this summer.
As much as some say marijuana is not addictive, I’ve seen evidence that seems contrary to that – along the lines of coffee and other additives, it is easy to be psychologically as well as physically addicted to any substance (and actually addictive: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/marijuana-addiction-rare-but-real-072014 ). But of course, living in an age of alternate-news, it is tricky to keep facts and fictions separate along with fears and hopes. As a “for instance”, I remember growing up hearing news reports about babies being born addicted to crack cocaine – we received our cable signal from Detroit – and following the after affects that were surprisingly positive after a very difficult start http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/booming/revisiting-the-crack-babies-epidemic-that-was-not.html It turned out that the long-range impact of babies born addicted to crack was not as horrific as was feared. The impact of second-hand smoke (tobacco or marijuana) is often worse than first hoped http://www.livescience.com/55587-marijuana-smoke-affects-blood-vessels.html
I’ve also been in schools with children born under the influence of meth – and I was very concerned because some teachers who were very skilled working with FASD admitted that this was new, more complex and difficult. And I know some will say – those are different……but having seen children as young as kindergarten having interactions with “weed” leads to difficult thinkings – if they are smoking early (which does have an impact on the brain, and unlike the lungs recovering if/when someone ‘quits’, the brain does not re-heal) they tend to try “others” as well….which has led to a recent crisis connected to fentanyl: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/a-killer-high-how-canada-got-addicted-tofentanyl/article29570025/
Addiction is a tough word to deal with. I’ve seen too many friends and family succumb to the effects of drug use, even though they believed they “could stop at any time”….even though they couldn’t. My fathers passing was strongly linked with smoking, I lost another relative to alcohol. One of my “uncles” ended up living on the street with dependency issues- and when he was finally found and did show up for another relatives funeral…..well it was hard for everyone to see how much he had changed.
Side Effects are also tough to deal with. My struggle with pain has always had me aware of how some things (mainly chemicals) interact with each other. Some medicines to not work well when mixed together. There can be better health benefits to walking down a forest path than taking a white pill. Mindfulness matters when making choices on what to do to/with your body. I have done a lot of talking and work with anxious children using prescriptions by making them aware that adding self-medications can be disastrous – anxiety with drugs that have paranoia as a side effect? Mis understanding how chemicals mess with each other and then impact how the brain actually functions is one of the reasons that many deaths are not directly attributed to the drugs but instead to the weapons used (guns knives & jumping off tall structures were chosen by people I lost – along with too many over-doses).
One of the ‘positive’ side effects people like to talk about is taxation and revenue! But there is a significant offset to this as other regions that have legalized marijuana have noted the increase costs of other departments (such as health care). As our own province is closing in on 1000 deaths a year just linked to fentanyl (not necessarily including the far too many suicides that may have a link to drug use – and misuse)……how much tax revenue are these lives worth?
Unknowns are tricky. It is easy to use a lot of the same information (especially statistics) both as a positive and negative. But the ‘unknowns’ I am going to focus on now are what can’t be seen: candies and edibles. I was warned early on to always ‘pour your own drink’ and this relates very much to anything being made “for you”. When drugs are mixed with baking, it is impossible to gauge how much of an impact it will have on the person – and more specifically for schools, to determine what/if something was added in. My biggest fear is the adult planning a 1/4 brownie as a serving vs “2 bite brownie” mindset that so many have – especially children: https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/conditions/acute-marijuana-intoxication/
Availability is a weird mix – but it is a mix of the old saying: buyer beware….more so than ever before….and my approach to “consequences” has changed over the years as I try to better understand ‘why’ students are using rather than simply focusing on what they did. But this is much more complex and difficult than having a “zero-tolerance approach” (which doesn’t work….)
And with the availability there is another set of unseen factors:
- it’s bad enough to know how many people are driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol. Trying to identify who is under the influence of drugs is even more complex.
- child development is under-studied. It is difficult to do purposeful studies on minors, but what has been explored is not good – especially on developing brains: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/your-kids-brain-on-pot-the-real-effects-of-marijuana-on-teens/article21127612/
Medicinal? I’m not going to debate this because I am not a doctor. But I liken it to the myriad of other prescriptive drugs – they need to be taken cautiously and with an understanding of why they are being used and what will happen….and what might happen. I know that a shot of demerol helped my back feel a LOT better….but I was also mindful that while it made me feel really good….that it wasn’t something that should be used on an ongoing basis. I also trust my doctor and pharmacist to help me know how the medicines mix with each other as well as with other products – its why honesty is important when a health professional asks if you are using recreational drugs. I know that alcoholic beverages, even though it might feel good at the time, can have longer term impacts on me – both on the outside and potentially on the inside. There is a reason why medical marijuana is prescribed for specific maladies: it is mindfully compared to other medicines looking at pros and cons of all options to help maintain a certain quality of life – these are big (debilitating) medical issues, not a sore throat or broken arm.
So this 4/20 I am very disappointed to be in a country that is moving forward with discussions about further legalizing of controlled substances without being mindful of the consequences that need to be thought about and discussed more openly than ever before….and fortunately some school districts are using the legalization discussion to focus on topics such as why there are age restrictions being talked about: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/what-will-legal-marijuana-pot-mean-for-schools-1.4044583 because while we shouldn’t be going to dramatic as the movie Reefer Madness, we can’t also pretend that it’s the universal cure to all ails. Mindful decisions matter.