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If you're anything like me, your teenage years and perhaps early twenties were likely the times you experimented most with various substances. (Many of you have carried the spirit of your youth to the present day)!
For some of us, these years never end and substance (ab)use simply becomes part of the wallpaper of our daily lives.
With cannabis now being legal in my great home country of Canada, there are a few points I'd like to address from both a personal and a clinical perspective.
The main thing I want to talk about is the possible effects of cannabis on young people as opposed to we seasoned pot veterans of past and present.
Many studies have demonstrated the possibility of mental health complications being exacerbated in some young pot users.
I have worked with youth that have had their symptoms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis all get worse in (no small) part due to their heavy marijuana use.
If we throw other substances into the mix things can get even more unstable. The young brain is still developing, and an onslaught of chemicals is likely to throw things even further off-balance.
Puberty is challenging enough as it is without substance-related complications. That is why I advocate using substances later in life, if you even feel curious about trying them at all.
Pot-smoking grandparents aside, there are a variety of reasons to postpone drug use as long as possible, if not indefinitely. I've observed the most harm in my clients when they started using at very young ages. They create a harmful pattern early in their development that only gets stronger as they grow up.
I've spoken with kids in their teens, and they may need lots of counseling and support before they are able to get themselves back on track.
Imagine if that same person was able to postpone their gratification. They do well in school, graduate from college, have a great career, and so on. When they retire they are offered some pot by their cool ex-hippie neighbor. They try pot, they laugh, they eat, they enjoy. End of story.
Once the brain and personality have sufficiently developed, we have a much firmer foundation within ourselves and in life. Substances won't be as likely to effect us in adverse ways, all other things being equal.
And why not party hearty when all is said and done? Young people have long, challenging lives to create and to enjoy. I've seen 14 year olds whose dreams had almost gone up in smoke before they'd finished high school.
The pleasure principle is especially strong when we are young. If something like cannabis can make us feel really good, really fast it gets the more primitive, fundamental part of the brain active in a big way.
For young people I've worked with they describe the overwhelming urge to get high and/or drunk, no matter the consequences. Instead of deferring gratification until the weekend, these clients would rather simply get high whenever they want.
Over time, these young people can do the hard work on themselves and begin to decrease and ultimately abstain from any substance that is harmful to them.
Unfortunately, many such young people also end up like too many of my own friends, acquaintances, and colleagues: their drugs of choice/mental health struggle end up driving them to suicide, an overdose, or both.
The good news is that more and more people are empowering themselves to make positive, loving changes in their lives. They in turn will help others do the same and the youth of the future will not have to endure the pitfalls of the present.
I'm happy to offer counseling and writing consultations to anyone who might be interested. Thank you so much for your continued support.