Dear Straight Talk: Regarding the recent column about the daughter upset over her father smoking pot, I wish you had taken a stronger stand against pot. My stepfather smokes pot and since it doesn't harmfully affect him, he sees no reason not to allow my 16-year-old stepsister (his daughter), to smoke it. Plus it would be hard to stop her anyway since he's doing it. It has a horrible effect on her. I would just let it be her problem, but we share a room. She goes from being hyperactive when she's high - often stripping off her clothes to feel "free," while laughing at my annoyance - to being a zombie when she comes down. She's gone from being a good student to having zero interest in school, getting all D's and F's, and cutting classes. Nobody can tell me pot isn't harmful because I live in the same room with proof that it is. - Kristen, Sacramento, Calif.
Dear Kristen: Let me repeat my stand on pot. Today's strong pot has very negative neurological effects on some kids - and these effects can become chronic. Other kids continue to ace their tests and be wildly successful. The paradox makes for confusion and denial in confronting marijuana for the multitude of parents, teachers, even rehab workers, who smoke currently or in the past, most of whom have never experienced these negative effects (in the past because pot was 10-25 times weaker, and currently because most adults avoid substances incompatible with their personal chemistry).
Parents, let's end the confusion now: If your kid's grades, energy, or interest in school dives, or their eyes look "wrong," immediately suspect pot or pills and get them to outpatient rehab for testing. Pot may have a place medically, and even recreationally for adults over 21 (as society has allowed for alcohol), but it's terrible for teens. Even for kids who seem OK with it, it takes a toll.
Kristen, what your stepfather is doing is equivalent to letting his kid get drunk at home. Even if pot is legalized, this would be illegal. Your stepfather could easily prohibit his daughter from using even though he uses; drinking parents do it all the time. Your stepsister needs rehab. I urge you to talk to a school counselor about the situation. Read on for another "brain on drugs" story from Gregg.
Gregg, 19: I started smoking in sophomore year to ease anxiety. Lots of friends started, too, and I noticed right off how differently it affected us. One friend didn't seem affected at all. He had amazing clarity in his thinking and often a very active high. My other friends were less affected, too.
For me, what a joke. Even when I wasn't high, doing homework was like digging a well with a spoon. In school, I couldn't focus on the simplest things. I would think about a problem over and over, unable to find a solution or even drop the problem. Decision-making became so impossible I often flipped a coin. (You can imagine the problems that caused.) Needless to say, my grades and interest in school dropped.
I acted differently, too. I was super awkward when high, my body language was off, I was always tired, and pot was my only interest. My friends noticed I was different and began avoiding me.
Only after six months with an outpatient rehab counselor, did I get clean. But it took being 100 percent clean (no screw-ups) for two solid months to finally see how stupid and unproductive pot made me. I've been clean a year. Now it's easy to refuse pot, even in college. Now I just laugh at the high kids. Mostly I'm laughing from the pure joy of being sober and free; it just feels so good!
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