The whole world is watching Colorado to see how people change following the legalization of marijuana. Will boomers search through boxes for 40-year-old blue jeans and try to fit into them? Will tie-dye make a comeback? Will men dispense with barbers and start growing their gray hair long?
The real question is, can any of us maintain our values? Is it possible for teens to withstand peer pressure, or have we raised children who just can’t say no to anything? If so, when did this moral paralysis happen — and why?
First, a factual segue. Often the propensity to addiction is inherited. It’s like the first drink a woman takes when she’s out socializing with friends. She might find the taste repugnant. But if alcoholism runs in her family, one drink might be the beginning of the end.
According to the Feb. 12, 2012, edition of Scientific American, marijuana use can be problematic, but only rarely leads to addiction. For example, it is less addictive than cigarettes, which are legally sanctioned by the US government. Quitting smoking is unquestionably harder than getting off marijuana. Illnesses caused by cigarettes are legion: cancer, hypertension, heart attacks, strokes.
Read related IJN editorial, "One take on marijuana: Marijuana won. Who lost?"
There are smokers who can limit their nicotine intake to one or two cigarettes a day. Called “occasional smokers,” they are few and far between. Statistics clearly prove that smoking is dangerous to one’s health and plays a definitive factor in life expectancy. But cigarettes are legal.
Marijuana is certainly not risk-free. It is the most widely used illicit substance in the world, according to a 2002 UN study. Potheads are not imaginary cartoon figures or laughable cinematic protagonists. They are real. That said and fully acknowledged, marijuana pales in terms of addiction when compared to other drugs.
A 1994 large-scale survey conducted by epidemiologist James Anthony, then at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, asked more than 8,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 about their use of marijuana and other drugs. Researchers found that out of those who tried marijuana once, 9% fit the diagnosis of cannabis dependence. The corresponding figure for alcohol was 15%; for cocaine, 17%; for heroin, 23%; for nicotine, 32%.
Prior to Jan. 1, 2014, many teens tried marijuana. The same applies to alcohol and other drugs. If parents have taught their children well, teens won’t smoke marijuana or drink beer or indulge in other “highs” now that cannabis is legal. Parents are the key. Instead of panicking, parents should watch their children, just as (one hopes) they have always watched them. Responsible teens will be OK. If not, parents must take some responsibility. A child does not raise itself.
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