Weed and Teenagers

I’m going to express my unpopular opinion. I’m not excited about the legalization of pot, which is likely going to happen soon in New York and New Jersey.

Yes, I know that the enforcement of these laws is especially tough on minority communities. I know that regulations reduce the amount of bad drugs. I know that it brings in a lot of revenue for cash-strapped state legislatures. But it just sucks for the parents of teenagers.

I am extremely grateful that Jonah survived high school, got into a great college, and has a super demanding major that makes him study on Saturday nights. Because I’ve seen how things can go south.

Yeah, I’m in a UMC suburb, but those kids get in trouble, too. Big time. And it’s pot that fueling the trouble, not the Bud Lights that they get from a big brother. Since the kids are all under 18, they aren’t getting jail time, but they are still going on probation, going before judges, getting suspended, selling, and upgrading to more serious drugs. It’s not making the papers, but it’s happening.

The parents sit in the bleachers at football games and whisper about these matters. They share tips for finding the stashes under the beds and spy on the kids on social media. They trade the business cards of lawyers. They warn each other about the instigators who seem to be at the center of the action.

Teenagers are dumb, and their brains are too sensitive to chemicals. Most parents have given up on trying to stop the Juuls, but aren’t ready to deal with the new problem of legal weed. I’m so, so, so happy that Jonah is sweating it out in his bio classes and that Ian is immune to teenage vices, because our suburban town is going to go up in smoke very soon.

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94 thoughts on “Weed and Teenagers

  1. The problems you list with pot are mostly problems caused because it is illegal. Of course, it would still be illegal for teens, but I think they are a lot less likely to go on to hard drugs if they get the pot from an older brother instead like the beer instead of a dealer who is also selling heroin because pot is illegal too.

    1. Personally, I’ve never used it. It wasn’t around when I was of the age to start and it seems really unseemly to ask my neighbors’ kids* where to get some even when those kids are now adults.

      *Really obvious which ones I should ask.

    1. I suppose what’s happening is that the legal market is crowding out the illegal market, making it harder for kids to find a seller.

  2. It is possible, as MH suggests, that the legal market may crowd out the illegal. My recollection is that in high school, it was easier to buy drugs than alcohol for just that reason: drug dealers don’t check ID since they have nothing to lose, but the profits from selling solely to teenagers wouldn’t be enough to sustain a booze dealer in business.

    That said, the recent experiment in making opiates easier to obtain, by dismantling the legal and professional curbs that limited distribution, has been a national disaster, and I’m sure that legal marijuana will be a net negative. Among other things, the dealers who now get arrested are not going to start working at McDonald’s or McWeed, they are going to move on to other illegal activities and continue getting arrested.

    1. It’s likely that without the profits from an illegal market to entice them and the burden of a criminal record to hold them back in the job market, they’ll do just fine in legal activities that don’t involve marijuana and pay more than minimum wage.

      If not, let me be the first to suggest ketamine.

  3. I agree that there are sad stories that never make the media in wealthy towns. It annoys me to read people who think alcoholism and drug addiction are only problems for Other People. It’s right here. It just tends to be hidden fairly well. Treatment programs and lawyers hide the damage.

    By the time things fall totally apart, the kids are adults, and likely living in other, less affluent towns, sometimes with a prison stay on their records.

  4. I really think this is same as it ever was, in the 90s. Just we’ll get the police less involved. Sure some kids will try pot earlier, but I just think some kids don’t drink much, and they won’t smoke pot. The kids who get stoned all the time are the same as the ones who drink all the time. it is all a problem.

  5. Apologies for not having read the thread yet, but a lot of people have not figured out moderate/socially acceptable/non-relationship damaging pot use.

    You hear about pot-using parents who are parenting little stoned (case in point–the lady I call “The Worst Mom on the Internet”), not to mention a lot of annoyed wives of pot-smoker husbands. It is really hard to relate to somebody who really isn’t completely there much of the time, plus it’s not really possible for a heavy pot smoker to contribute equally at home.

    Plus, parental use leads to earlier use by kids.

    I think we’re about to discover that pot can be as bad for families as alcohol.

    1. That said, I think that there’s some point to the idea that has been floated of attempting to avoid opioid overdoses by substituting legal pot.

      Pot can wreck your life, but it’s less likely to kill you.

    2. The Worst Mom on the Internet (who now lives in Seattle–convenient!) likes edibles. It’s just a matter of time before her undersupervised kids get into her stash and have a Maureen Dowd experience.

      I remember me as a kid–I could find absolutely anything with chocolate in the house. There’s no way that stoner parents are alert or with it enough to keep kids out of their stash if it’s mixed with sweets.

      Keeping edibles in your house is DUMB, DUMB, DUMB if you have kids–unless it’s literally under lock and key.

      Going further, I think the commercial sale of marijuana-laced sweets is something that may need to be legally banned in areas with legal pot.

      1. That was so great how Dowd knocked herself into immobility. I really want to figure out how to get somebody to pay for me to do that.

        Anyway, if people can keep guns locked up to protect kids, a bit a Alice B. Toklas chocolate shouldn’t be hard to secure.

      2. Theoretically, yes.

        But we’re talking about a population group that is famously not detail-oriented.

      3. I presume you were being sarcastic, since there’s a steady stream of gun incidents in which parents were obviously not keeping their guns under lock and key. Estimates of accidental gun deaths in children are not that accurate, but a AP study said that 90 3-year olds were killed in accidental shootings between Jan 1 2014 and June 2016, which is more than 30/year. The CDC reports no deaths of three year olds because of marijuana edible overdoses.

      4. You being whoever compared guns to edibles and whether parents of young children keep them under lock and key.

      5. Yes. Or at least pointing out that far more dangerous things are left around the house without much concern about what the kids will find.

      6. bj said,

        “You being whoever compared guns to edibles and whether parents of young children keep them under lock and key.”

        I think you’d need to stick to stats for states with legal pot–commercial edibles seem to be more of a thing there.

        I also would be concerned about a bigger age range than just under threes for both accidental shootings and ingesting edibles. I know at some point (especially early elementaryish?) I figured out where my mom was likely to keep anything chocolate. Under 3, I was pretty oblivious–not to mention didn’t have much reach.

        Bear in mind that parents might be pretty leery of bringing in a kid who had gotten into their edible stash unless the situation was pretty dire, because of CPS concerns/possible custody repercussions. So, I’m pretty sure we don’t have a good stat on how many kids are sampling their parents’ edibles.

  6. I have never tried pot. I’ll be 50 in the fall, so I’m guessing I’ll get through life w/out it at this point. But I do think it should probably be treated more like alcohol. Which, I guess means legalizing. (which does makes me wonder if pot were legal, if I would have tried it? Hmmm…are there many of us rule followers who won’t do something that breaks the law?) But seriously, for those of you who have tried it – is it very different from having a drink? In my imagination, it is very similar.

    AmyP, I am very curious to know who the worst mom on the internet is!

    1. I have lots of friends who smoke pot socially and it doesn’t interfere with busy and successful lives. I even know people who have a small joint after work in the same way someone else might have a glass of wine. I have taken puffs here and there but never smoked a whole joint and prefer alcohol, but for some people it’s a preferable form of relaxant. Like alcohol, people can abuse it, though honestly studies have shown it’s less habit forming in terms of physical addiction than drinking.

      I think pot is as likely to lead to hard drugs as alcohol is, that is, it’s only a “gateway” in that if you’re looking for mind altering substances it’s easier and cheaper to get a hold of than other drugs, but most people who smoke pot don’t go on to do cocaine or meth or heroin, just like most people who drink alcohol don’t go on to do hard drugs.

    2. B.I. said,

      “I have lots of friends who smoke pot socially and it doesn’t interfere with busy and successful lives. I even know people who have a small joint after work in the same way someone else might have a glass of wine. I have taken puffs here and there but never smoked a whole joint and prefer alcohol, but for some people it’s a preferable form of relaxant. Like alcohol, people can abuse it, though honestly studies have shown it’s less habit forming in terms of physical addiction than drinking.”

      I know there are a lot of very casual pot users where it doesn’t wreck their lives–but there’s also a subgroup who kid themselves that they are in the previous group. It’s not casual if it’s something that affects a person’s whole life, if they can’t get through the day without it, or if it’s the most important relationship in their lives, that they will happily sacrifice everything else to.

      With regard to comparison to alcohol–I’m not a fan of heavy drinking, either.

      A lot of people are lying to themselves about their relationship to marijuana, and we also haven’t had the big societal “come to Jesus” talk over pot that we’ve already had over alcohol abuse.

      1. MH said,

        “I don’t think the alcohol talk worked very well.”

        It depends. Here are some samples from some of my family talks on the subject:

        “Here’s the last dish from the old family china. Great-aunt so-and-so used to do the dishes when she was drinking, and she broke the rest of them.”

        “Great-uncle so-and-so used to be a successful veterinarian, but he was a drinker, and toward the end, he used to put his clothes on over his pajamas.”

        I believe there’s some social drinking in my generation, but there was a big break between the late 19th century/early-to-mid 20th century alcoholics and my squeaky clean, very financially savvy grandparents. A movement away from alcohol is not atypical for the US. When I’ve looked this up, US alcohol consumption is down 2/3 from what it used to be at its peak.These people say that in 1830, Americans were drinking the equivalent of 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol per capita yearly.

        http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31741615

        It’s down to about 2.3 gallons nowadays–of course there are a lot more chemical alternatives than there were in 1830.

        The bottom six deciles of Americans drink less than one alcoholic beverage a week (zero in the first three deciles, 0.02 in the fourth, 0.14 in the fifth and 0.63 in the sixth).

        Throw in the seventh decile, and you get something like 0-2 alcoholic beverages a week. Things get kind of hairy from there on, with 6 drinks a week in the eighth decile, 15 in the ninth, and then nearly 74 (!!!) in the top decile.

        http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2014/10/how_much_alcohol_do_americans_drink_consumption_predicts_alcoholism_and.html

        But the median American doesn’t drink much at all.

      2. It’s true that the median American doesn’t drink at all, but a better way to read that chart is “10% of Americans are drunk for a majority of their waking hours.” That’s what the top decile having 74 drinks a week means.

  7. kristenell said,

    “But I do think it should probably be treated more like alcohol. Which, I guess means legalizing.”

    …and realizing that being under the influence during all of one’s leisure hours is a bad sign.

    “AmyP, I am very curious to know who the worst mom on the internet is!”

    Here’s page 1425 of the latest GOMI thread devoted to her antics.

    https://gomiblog.com/forums/that-wife/living-absolutely/page-1425/

    Here’s one of her major claims to fame–an old photo of her kids playing with her vibrator:

    https://www.dailydot.com/irl/mom-vibrator-instagram/

    (I’m exaggerating about the Worst Mom on the Internet–more accurately Worst Upper Middle Class Oversharing White Ex-Mormon Seattle Mom.)

  8. In middle school health class we learned that moderate pot use is fine and moderate alcohol use for adults is fine, and cocaine, heroin, and PCP were definite hard nos (this was pre meth and pre opioids). I think it was pretty solid health class advice.

    We also learned about episiotomies, which is probably the best form of birth control for a room of 12 year old girls.

    1. In MY middle school health class (actually a junior high health class, which can date me for you) we heard from a nice late middle aged lady who was wearing a dress made from cloth you would expect to be used to upholster a sofa, and she told us about her experience at the death bed of a marijuana addict. Who was foaming at the mouth and in misery.
      As I remember it, this had exactly zero effect on my interest in pot when it became available in my friend group about tenth grade…

    2. B.I. said,

      “In middle school health class we learned that moderate pot use is fine and moderate alcohol use for adults is fine”

      Did they define “moderate”?

      “We also learned about episiotomies, which is probably the best form of birth control for a room of 12 year old girls.”

      Oh, man.

      A mom friend and I were having brunch yesterday with a no-kids-yet 20-something. I hope our discussion of forceps delivery didn’t put her off the whole kid thing. (Imagine a really large pair of salad tongs…)

      1. The teacher who taught us about episiotomies (a very frank baby boomer from Appalachia) also told us the story of her birth, in rural Kentucky. Her mother had fallen out of a hay loft and broke her pelvis as a girl. She hadn’t gone to the hospital, and it had healed but not well. When she was in labor, the baby got stuck on the pelvis as it was unable to expand to let the baby through. By the time the doctors realized this, it was too late for a C-section and the only way to get the baby out alive was to rebreak the mom’s pelvis. They broke the pelvis with minimal pain killers, and the baby ended up fine. The mom went on to have multiple other children (presumably by c-section).

        I’ve always thought that if people really believe in delaying sexual activity among teens, instead of making up lies about birth control, they could just get women in to tell their horrible birth stories.

  9. UMC mom here with a kid at a private school set in the woods. Yup, plenty of kids come to school stoned and get stoned at school with their parents pot. Not much scares them out of it as they see their parents being successful at work during the week and stoned on the weekends. Joy.

    1. We don’t smoke weed. We tried it once, LOL, when we were in Denver sans kids. There are rules you can break, and then there are rules you don’t break. 🙂 Then again, Massachusetts is legalizing (if not already–since I don’t use, I don’t really know).
      But we do like a nice drink. My husband likes to have a whiskey while grilling (which has been more common lately now that the weather is finally better), and I like a nice glass of red wine. We can get a little silly/obviously tipsy. Yet the kids don’t seem to need to go to school drunk.
      I’m not sure I buy the “if the parents are doing it, the kids are too” argument. I think peer pressure is a bit more of a factor, and that factor has a lot of angles/variations. I did ask S about what’s going on in HS/college. She said there was little weed use in her HS, more in college, but at college, many more people drink than smoke. Just one kid’s experience.
      I’d ask E but he would somehow answer with a non-answer or a grunt.

      1. Wendy said,

        “I’m not sure I buy the “if the parents are doing it, the kids are too” argument.”

        With either pot or alcohol, it probably helps a lot with access.

      2. Ugh, don’t remind me of our liquor cabinet. S is 18 almost 19, so in my mind she is free to have a drink at home (I’m not a fan of the 21 drinking age). But E, with the spectrumminess, is more of a concern. He will bear watching. I keep trying to get them to try some sort of alcoholic drink in a family situation, but I think they realize I have an ulterior motive of observing them and teaching them, and they are resistant.

    2. How is that different from UMC kids drinking their parents’ alcohol? I went to high school where pot and alcohol were widely available (not necessarily through parents, but not necessarily not).* Some kids drank too much, some kids smoked too much, some kids smoked/drank on weekends, and some didn’t at all. Most kids who smoke/drink in high school will probably go on to be perfectly fine adults, some won’t. I’m not sure why pot has to produce a moral panic that alcohol doesn’t.

      My sophomore year, one of our valedictorians was interviewed by a local paper on what study habits made him so successful. His advice was to do all your homework stoned. It caused a minor kerfuffle where our school put out a statement saying they did not condone pot use. In any case, being minorly stoned didn’t stop him from getting straight As and an IB Diploma. If we’re talking about concrete harms, it’s hard to see how pot smoking harmed him.

      Obviously, if pot use is interfering with your ability to hold down a job/have relationships or leads to to engage in harmful behavior, then you should probably quit and get treatment. But it seems for some people here the only evidence of problematic pot usage is that people use it at all. Separate from obvious harms, if people have otherwise fulfilling lives and also use pot regularly, I see it as no different from people who have a drink or two in the evening, or sometimes indulge at social events on the weekends.

      *The truly rich and successful parents were too busy running coke rings to smoke pot. It was mainly the teachers and the other middle class hippie parents who had pot.

    3. MLS said,

      “UMC mom here with a kid at a private school set in the woods. Yup, plenty of kids come to school stoned and get stoned at school with their parents pot. Not much scares them out of it as they see their parents being successful at work during the week and stoned on the weekends. Joy.”

      My sis’s kid has a friend/former friend with exactly that situation. The dad is a successful pothead and the high school kid has been getting stoned in his car at lunch.

      Is kid going to be equally successful? I wouldn’t bet on it.

  10. The data on teen use of marijuana after legalization is not settled. There’s at least one report that says use went up in Washington after legalization, reports in Colorado that teens in ER’s are more likely to show marijuana use, reports that kids think marijuana risks are lower after legalization.

    For example: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2593707 (which found different effects in WA vi CO).

    I don’t regard the evidence as strong, but I don’t think we have the evidence to conclude that marijuana use among teens has not been increased by legalization for adults.

    Anecdotally, I am hearing reports from my kids that marijuana use is more common as well as troubling reports that kids have not grasped that marijuana use also impairs driving. But, my anecdotal experience is skewed by the conjunction between my kids aging into adolescence at the same point that legalization occurred.

  11. While recognizing the limits of data, I do think it’s important for these public health/behavior discussions to be data driven. Say, for example, does discussion of episiotomies really decrease pregnancy rates? And, my gut instinct is to presume that marijuana legalization would increase use, in general, but also among teens. But, we’ve established I’m a serious rule follower, and thus, extrapolating from my own experience might not be reflective of the general population.

    1. The episiotomy comment was pretty much 100% a joke on my part.

      The issue with research on human behavior is unless you monitor people without their knowledge, people lie (consciously or not) and/or modify their behavior in response to monitoring. If you get evidence of increased usage after legalization, it will be really hard to tease out what’s actually increased usage vs. increased willingness to admit engaging in such behavior now that it’s legal. There are survey and interview methods to mitigate this problem, but they’re not 100% and I don’t trust that researchers in the biological sciences are trained adequately in them.

    2. Yes, I’m guessing a joke, but, it seems to me that a lot of conversation on these topics — roughly defined as how to modify children’s behavior for public health reasons — relies on extrapolation. Progressives have long complained about the lack of data and science driving anti-drug use and sex ed campaigns designed by the right, but I’m feeling that I’m seeing fairly sloppy conclusive statements made from the left on marijuana legalization. For example, we might conclude that use and/or teen use would go up, but still decide that the benefits outweigh the costs, but I’m wary when people conclusively dismiss all the potential harms in making the decision.

      I suspect that the question of marijuana legalization is out of the bag — that we are on the path to country-wide legalization, though there might be hiccups along the way in the form of Jeff Sessions. This morning, I just listened to a report on enforcing marijuana laws in the face of legalization in WA state. There’s a glut of marijuana in WA, which has driven down the price of legal marijuana in WA state. So, there are growers who are trying to find ways to export to states where it’s illegal (like Arkansas). And, there are growers without permits, who now have more leeway to grow out in the open, since their field might be next to a legal field, with permit. There is a domino effect of legalization putting continuing pressure on what will actually be legal, because the negative effects of enforcement remains until the item is no longer regulated.

      1. With regard to sex ed, my understanding is that careful studies find no significant effect from any program, conservative or liberal. Abstinence education doesn’t make kids abstain, contraceptive education doesn’t make them use contraceptives, lectures about respect for girls don’t make them respect girls (or make the girls respect themselves), etc. They really aren’t listening.

        OTOH, UMC girls understand that promiscuous sex diminishes you on the dating market, and that out-of-wedlock pregnancy will derail your academic and professional career. They aren’t listening, but they are watching and learning.

      2. “UMC girls understand that promiscuous sex diminishes you on the dating market”

        Uuuuuugh.

        I just had to express my displeasure.

      3. My comment might be a little unclear: I was only referring to educational programs. Maybe programs that are more or other than educational do show measurable effects on teenage sexual activity. However, the information on the Colorado program, which went well beyond education, relates to overall pregnancies, not teenage sexual behavior, so it doesn’t refute even a broad reading of what I wrote.

        I don’t think drug education works either. It didn’t work on me. But I have read a little less of the evaluative literature on those programs, so I am less dogmatic on their ineffectiveness.

      4. I agree with you that data driven policy is the best. I think the hard thing with tracking, say, change over time is that it can be hard to accurately track that when the starting point is a behavior that is illegal and/or highly stigmatized. I don’t think it’s unlikely that teen usage will increase once marijuana is legal for adults, but I think we’ll have a hard time measuring that change, since at least some part of what we might be noticing is a change from hidden behavior to less hidden behavior, in addition to any potential actual increase.

        A second issue is, what are concrete harms for teenage marijuana use? That’s something where there’s almost no concrete data, beyond an intuition that like any mind altering substances, it’s probably more harmful for a developing brain than a fully developed one. My guess is that we’ll only get adequate data on this when we have large-scale, long-term epidemiological studies, which would only be available years or decades after legalization.

  12. I don’t know a single family that has not been touched by alcoholism. My mother who would be in her 90s now used to blame prohibition for the high level of alcoholism in her parents’ generation. Her take on it was that everyone was making their own and drinking it all the time as part of an underground economy.
    I don’t think that the legislation of marijuana will make that much of a difference in teen usage as (per my wife who works with teenagers) pot has been easy to get for at least the last decade. I think the real question is when will we deal with addiction as a health issue and not a moral issue? It’s so incredibly complicated and we tend to want simple solutions.

    1. I’ve always found the comparison of a drug to alcohol (in terms of its public health effects) an effective argument for legalization. Alcohol is a huge public health problem, but one so ingrained in western society that making it illegal didn’t work. Making something illegal is a different exercise than legalizing something that was illegal (was alcohol ever illegal in the west?).

      From a brain science point of view, there are differences in the use and abuse of drugs, including their relative degree of physiological and psychological addictiveness and their psychoactive effects. The talking point on addictiveness has changed in the talk of the science of addition. Even 30 years ago, we used to make a big deal of desensitization of the receptors that react to the substance — that is, did the receptors develop tolerance for the substance (yes, opiates, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, no, probably, marijuana, lsd). Now, the addiction folks realize that addiction can be produced by circuits that aren’t directly related the the response to the substance (thus, yes, non-substances like gambling might produce addictive behavior, but certainly any substance could as well). But, there are also substances (opiates, alcohol, lsd, benzodiazepines, . . .) that are psychoactive, in the sense that they change decision making/experience/memories/ as opposed to substances (nicotine, coffee) that don’t.

      But, treating addiction as a health rather than moral issue still means that incentives and punishments (including cost of the substance, rules against its use, social conventions, and, yes, the law) make a difference in outcomes. As an example cited by Y81, a number of changes in legal opiate use, from greater compassion for the problem of pain, drug development and advertising, loosening of controls on those providing prescriptions, social changes in acceptability of use, have had a major effect on opiate addiction and its public health impacts.

  13. was alcohol ever illegal in the west?

    Prohibition?

    There are now reports of weed being laced with fentanyl. The reports were poo-poohed last year, but they are now too widespread:

    https://www.capecod.com/cape-wide-news/ypd-and-yfd-save-man-using-marijuana-possibly-laced-with-fentanyl/
    https://www.wpxi.com/news/national/mom-girl-left-for-dead-after-drug-encounter-while-smoking-marijuana/601547885

    It does make sense, from a dealer’s perspective, and may even be a consequence of increasing competition from legal pot. Fentanyl is addictive, and cheap. There are reports of cocaine being laced with fentanyl and heroin.

    This is an argument for legal marijuana.

    It is hard for parents to hide a marijuana habit, given the smell. I don’t know many teenagers who would obey “do as I say, not as I do.” Given the smell, though, there are kids who smoke at home with their parents’ knowledge. One mother admitted that she knew where her daughter bought her weed (another student we both knew.) I have no idea why she thinks she can trust that young man more than any other dealer.

    But, you know, there are other things to worry about. On college campuses these days, there’s not only pot and alcohol, there’s also cocaine, lsd, and fentanyl. Nothing says these substances can’t be combined, of course, whether intentionally or unintentionally. And of course many, many students are taking prescribed medications, as well. (I’m of the generation warned about mixing drugs. Remember Karen Ann Quinlan?)

      1. You mean, has there ever been a successful (at least to some degree) prohibition? Not on a significant scale as far as I can recall.

    1. “On college campuses these days, there’s not only pot and alcohol, there’s also cocaine, lsd, and fentanyl. ”

      There was cocaine and LSD on college campuses in the 80s, too.

  14. As Mencken pointed out, it’s foolish to forbid something you can ferment from everyday items, like potatoes or grapes.

    1. Yes. And marijuana is called ‘weed’ because it grows almost anyplace. There are wild patches of it all over in rural areas. Most of it is, I’m told, useless to smoke because it is descended from hemp for making rope, but there’s enough of it that anybody who wants to grow something for themselves would be easily able to hide it.

    2. cranberry said,

      “As Mencken pointed out, it’s foolish to forbid something you can ferment from everyday items, like potatoes or grapes.”

      Based on my reading of Soviet era jokes, I believe you could make homemade vodka from kitchen scraps–it was like Russian composting.

  15. I appreciate all these reasonable responses to the legalization of pot. Really, I do. But then I talk to a parent who is playing wack-a-mole with his son’s stash of bongs. He finds them under the bed and in the closet and smashes them in front of the kid with a sledgehammer. And then a new one pops up the next week. I talk to another parent whose kid’s harmless pot habit turned to dealing pot and then turned to dealing Mexican Xanax with cops doing raids on their home, until this 18-year old kid is thrown out of the house.

    These parents are desperate. They just want to get these kids through high school and into college, but the easy access to pot threatens everything. It’s harder to get beer. It takes a lot more beer to get loaded. The road from pot to Xanax is a lot straighter than the road from beer to anything else.

    There’s something distasteful about making decisions without taking into consideration the opinions of people whose lives have been wrecked by drugs.

    1. “But then I talk to a parent who is playing wack-a-mole with his son’s stash of bongs. He finds them under the bed and in the closet and smashes them in front of the kid with a sledgehammer. ”

      Well, duh. Of course the kid is going to keep getting more bongs. This is the stupidest response to the situation I can think of.

      “They just want to get these kids through high school and into college,”

      !!! As if being in college is going to make them stop? I am teaching these kids; it doesn’t stop. And it’s a huge waste of money when they fail classes in college. College is too expensive to depend on it to be a wake-up call!

      I don’t understand why you can’t see that there are bigger problems here, probably on the family level, than the availability of pot. I’m not saying the kids or the parents are bad people; I just see a lot of bad decision-making.

      1. Wendy said,

        “!!! As if being in college is going to make them stop? I am teaching these kids; it doesn’t stop. And it’s a huge waste of money when they fail classes in college. College is too expensive to depend on it to be a wake-up call!”

        Right.

    2. I voted against marijuana legalization in WA because I wasn’t in favor of legalizing any more psychoactive drugs that impair decision making and I believe their use and their abuse will increase with legalization (I also believe there could be a decrease in criminal drug related activity and other positives).

      But, in your example, marijuana is illegal in your state, right? And yet, a family is incapable of limiting their child’s’ access?

      And, I do not believe the road from pot to xanax is any straighter than the road from a beer to anything else, and would be inclined to believe that pot’s illegality plays a more significant role than anything about the drug itself to leading to illegal drug dealing.

      Alcohol is a huge public health hazard and the Western civilizations haven’t succeeded in limiting its access, but there are certainly swathes of the world where drinking is far less common it is here.

    3. Ok but it is illegal in your state and you are thinking that making it legal will make this worse? I think the real issue here is the reality of addiction. It’s horrible. My uncle tore his (and our extended) family apart with his alcoholism. Our dentist, who is also a family friend, lost his only child to an alcohol overdose in college. It feels incredibly insensitive to talk about safe responsible consumption of mind altering substances in the face of such pain. But I’ve seen you write about getting a craft cocktail or a bottle of wine on this blog.
      As for the family with the bong holding son, I’m hoping they are in family therapy, since punishment is not going to solve their problems.
      On the brighter side, there is some evidence that heavy marijuana users tend to quit as they reach their 30s. I need to find this citation but I do know a few people who self identify as ex potheads.

      1. I joke about booze, but IRL, I’m very careful. We have a family tree littered with alcoholics. Some of them were serious alcoholics. My grandfather’s alcoholism and resultant abusive behavior nearly wrecked my mother. She was still dealing with her issues when I was growing up. She’s only shed those mental demons in the past decade or so, even though he died back in the 70s. Steve’s family also has its share of alcoholics.

        We’ve had lots of talks with Jonah about the addiction gene and how we’re pretty sure that we both carry it and have passed on to him. Steve and I both have lots of weird rules and restrictions on our alcohol consumption, because we both know that we could easily — VERY easily — go over the edge.

      2. Laura said,

        “We’ve had lots of talks with Jonah about the addiction gene and how we’re pretty sure that we both carry it and have passed on to him.”

        And it’s not unrelated to autism genes…

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201407/autistic-symptoms-make-higher-risk-substance-abuse

        “Autistic symptoms (but not autism diagnosis!) increase substance abuse risk”

        “Generally, people on the autism spectrum tend to be personally cautious and socially withdrawn. As you would expect, previous research shows that people with autism tend to have low rates of substance abuse – the preference for low risk and avoidance of social situations means less drinking or drug use. But new research (link is external) from the Washington University School of Medicine found the opposite: in their study of 3,080 Australian twins, people with symptoms of autism were more likely than people without symptoms to abuse alcohol and marijuana.”

        “How would alcohol and marijuana use correlate with symptoms like social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors?

        “Interestingly, what they found is that people with autistic traits were no more likely to drink or use marijuana than people without these traits, but that people with autistic traits who drank or smoked pot were more likely to become addicted to or otherwise abuse these substances.

        “In their study, just under 20 percent of twins without autistic traits met the criteria for alcoholism. But of people with autistic traits, 35 percent were alcohol-dependent. With marijuana, 23 percent of the controls had used marijuana more than 10 times in their lives, compared with 39 percent of people with 6 or more autistic symptoms.”

        “In a press release (link is external) accompanying the research, Duneesha De Alwis, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, wrote, “People with autistic traits can be socially withdrawn, so drinking with peers is less likely. But if they do start drinking, even alone, they tend to repeat that behavior, which puts them at increased risk for alcohol dependence.””

        My family tree has both a lot of spectrummy people and a lot of alcoholism (especially in the WWII, pre-WWII family), so my anecdotes line up with that finding.

      3. We have a family wedding coming up, the first where my son will be old enough to understand the conversation when one side remarks upon the drinking habits of the other.

      4. I’ve linked to this article before “https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2015/august/nyu-study-examines-top-high-school-students-stress-and-coping-mechanisms.html”, I think, but it seemed relevant to the “ex-pothead” description:

        “Substance use for stress relief was a predominant theme in our interviews with students, over two-thirds of whom described substance use as both endemic to their social experience and as a method for managing stress,” says Dr. Charles Cleland, a study investigator. Alcohol and marijuana were described as the primary substances students used for relaxation. As a male student noted: “most of the things that people do, here, when they’re stressed is they go get drunk or they get high.”

        My anecdotal, second hand reports suggest that marijuana is the drug of choice for “relaxation” while alcohol is for socialization, but for both, stress relief is a significant goal.

  16. It’s harder to get beer. It takes a lot more beer to get loaded.

    I think the Amethyst Initiative is a good idea. Raising the drinking age to 21 did not make students sober; it made them curious about other substances.

    I’m not in favor of pot. There are scarier things out there, from a health perspective, such as synthetic marijuana, and all the substances created last week in some lab in China.

    I do find it darkly hilarious that the most cosseted generation (no GMO this, no BPA that, OMG nothing with chemicals!) is willingly ingesting things that have had no safety testing whatsoever.

    But the death toll is also higher. I asked my mother how many deaths she remembers from my high school class and her circle of acquaintances. I think there are two accidental deaths.

    I’m running a list. Our community and circle of friends is very similar in size and SES. There are 2 accidental deaths. In all, I’m now up to 17. Mostly suicides and overdoses. (The key words in the death notices are “died suddenly.”) In a neighboring town a 10 year old committed suicide.

    Two factors seem to stand out: academic pressure and overdoses. Many of the deaths happen in high school or college, but it kind of flies under the radar because many of them died in other states.

    1. I’ll add that I think my high school graduating class has had a less than 1% death rate so far, since the early 80s. The local high school’s graduating classes are running higher than that, less than 10 years out.

    2. The CDC reports teen suicides as being at approximately the same level for boys as in 1975 (and lower than in the 90’s). Girls might be slightly higher, and both show a slight uptick since 2010 or so, but I don’t see anything to confirm the anecdote that suicides are up.

      NIDA is reporting an increase in teen drug overdoses (most recent stat, more deaths than in car accidents) in recent years, though drug use is down, because of fentanyl, they say.

      In my continued support of more information, I pass on a Bill Gates recommended book: Factfulness by Hans Rosling.
      “Rosling’s foundation, Gapminder, has this to explain about the worldview Factfulness offers: “We are also born with a craving for drama. We pay attention to dramatic stories and we get bored if nothing happens… The dramatic worldview has to be dismantled, because it is stressful and wrong. It leads to bad focus and bad decisions.” Factual information can ground us in a more accurate — and more optimistic — outlook, but it takes work. “Facts don’t come naturally. Drama and opinions do. Factual knowledge has to be learned.””

  17. College students are generally not teenagers.

    The demographics of our town reflects its status as one of Charles Murray’s “superzips.” The demographics of the families closely resemble Palo Alto, which has a suicide rate among youth (people up to 24) some 3x the national average: https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2017/03/03/cdc-releases-final-youth-suicide-report.

    High anxiety, high academic pressure, high parental expectations and high family income—and young adults. I would not be surprised that overall suicide rates remain steady, with outlier towns. I would not be surprised to find those outlier towns to be comprised of UMC families.

    We’re seeing suicides in elementary and middle school students in neighboring towns. Having grown up in this area, in the ’80s is was not normal to expect the local high schools to be running about a death a year. Now it is.

    1. If you ask me, those people in the coastal superzips are driving themselves nuts for no reason. Life is much easier here where you spend $250,000 for a house and have a three mile commute.

      1. I agree. And I’ve seen it get crazier during my lifetime. It used to be that we would gossip on the bus about the luxury development on our route that had–no kidding–walk-in freezers. Now, you know, people take African safaris on vacation. The wealthy areas are much larger, and the degree of luxury would have been unimaginable 30 years ago.

        But people aren’t happier. If anything, they’re more stressed out, and feeling trapped.

        The trouble is it’s like an escalator. Once you step off, it’s very hard to get back on. They’re starting to sell attached duplexes in our town for higher prices than the whole house we bought 20 years ago. Yes, there’s been inflation, but there was also a housing crash. I don’t know that my children will want to buy back in to our town, when/if they have children.

        I saw some episodes of HGTV in a doctor’s waiting room recently. They’re like huge, happy ads for other parts of the country. A whole house for $250,000? You can’t buy a lot to build a house for $250,000 here.

      2. I picked the house price because it’s what a cheaper, but livable house in my area goes for. This would be an old house without a garage. There are lots available now, I’m not sure what was pushed over to make room, going for $125,000. That seems about right because newer houses are close to impossible to find below a half million. The area was mostly filled in during the 1920s.

      3. There is a smaller lot on a less nice street for $40,000. I wonder if I could buy that and put up my own house made out of cob.

    2. I’m living that world (a 93%, which is just below their color coding). But, I suspect where boundaries are drawn make a big difference at that level.

      Why chose to live here? There’s a vibrancy to feeling like you are near where things are happening. The building, growth, liveliness are all reinforcing. There’s also a [hope?chance?lottery?] that you (or your children) will win the tournament being played at the highest levels (say, that you will join the startup that makes the big payoff). We can afford to live here, and, even though we bought our house 15+ years ago, we could afford to buy it now, as well. So, we make the decision to stay. But, we can see professionals who are troubled by the tradeoffs, most notably university professors.

  18. Cranberry said,

    “Having grown up in this area, in the ’80s is was not normal to expect the local high schools to be running about a death a year.”

    That was typical for my rural high school, which was probably quite a bit smaller.

    It was almost all car accidents and other accidents, though.

    1. I was using death as a kinder term for suicides and overdoses. I can only think of two car accidents over the last few years. The news about not drinking and driving has sunk in, as has the advice to use birth control. As far as I know, there has been only one pregnant youth–and she was college-aged at the time.

      It all stands out because most obituaries in the papers are for people over 75.

      1. MH said,

        “Yes. That was my experience also. It wasn’t one a year, but there were only about 20 people in each class.”

        “That was to Amy on the car accidents. So many car crashes.”

        We had just under 70 in the graduating class–more in younger grades. I believe there were about 360 students total in the high school when I was around.

      2. There used to be about one teenaged car crash a year in our state, in the 1980s. At least. It would usually happen in prom season; usually a car full of teenagers. That has drastically changed, due to legal changes.

        1) Graduated licensing. Teenagers can’t drive their friends around for 6 months after getting a license. There are curfews for young drivers (they can’t drive late at night.)
        2) Parental training. If your teenager wants a license, you have to go to training.
        3) Proms are generally all-night affairs now. Students are searched for contraband before getting on the bus. Parents arrange all-night parties in which the students are locked in the gym.

      3. The list of top-down changes — driving, for example or sex ed — is a reminder to me that exhortations (even when accompanied by significant investment in public services announcements and education) are insufficient for really changing behavior. We need rules and changes in opportunities, too.

  19. I haven’t caught up with the thread, but I heard from my sis that one of her high school classmates was killed by a stoned young adult CA driver this week, along with the classmate’s boyfriend’s two daughters. Five other people were injured.

    The news report says that the stoned driver seemed virtually unhurt and (as body bags were being taken away), he was asking, is everybody OK?

    Sis’s classmate (who was 39) is survived by 4 daughters, the youngest a preschooler.

  20. Kind of on topic, how much beers can you have before going to an evening performance of a musical performed by junior high students?

    Asking for a friend.

    1. Not enough, if you’re driving.

      However, the real challenge would be a middle school string orchestra.

    2. I’m not worried that the performance will be bad. I’ve heard the rehearsals. I wouldn’t go to a regular musical sober either.

      1. I went to 12 annual dance recitals in a row swearing every time I would bring a bottle of wine. Because being surrounded by that many tween and teen girls and their mothers was a nightmare. My daughter and I would fight every time until she and I finally agreed that she could get herself ready, and my job was just to bring her food and coffee in between dances. This is the first time in 12 years I won’t be spending one June weekend at recital. Wow.

      2. Wendy said,

        “I went to 12 annual dance recitals in a row swearing every time I would bring a bottle of wine.”

        That’s A LOT of dance for not being a die-hard dance mom.

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