The Effect of Legalizing Marijuana on Our Teens

UnknownOver the last several months I have had so many teachers, parents and students ask my thoughts on the affects marijuana will have on teens now that it is becoming legal.   Here are my thoughts.  Eight states have recently legalized recreational marijuana use for adults over age 21. Some might see this as a progressive step forward, but in truth, it’s a major setback for teenagers and the future of our Country.

The effects of both legal and illegal marijuana use are impacting youth in America in a major way. Substance abuse experts already see a correlation between the legalization of marijuana in these states and increased use among teens.  Studies have shown that even before these laws were in effect, teens were abusing this drug at a high rate: two-thirds of first-time marijuana users are under the age of 18, and one in six teens who tries marijuana becomes addicted to it.

Our culture glamorizes drug use in movies, in music and on television. Teens are bombarded with these messages, and the devastating consequences of marijuana use are almost never portrayed. Now, several other states are considering following this trend in legalizing marijuana.

While some might say that legalizing marijuana gets it out of the hands of unscrupulous dealers, and therefore protect teens, we should all know better. Creating a culture more tolerant of drug use makes drug use more “acceptable” in the minds of teens. In fact, Colorado is among the states with the highest teen marijuana abuse and usage is increasing while the perception of risk is falling.

We need to help our teens understand that marijuana use isn’t glamorous, and it isn’t safe. Not only are there risks to their health and brain development, but driving a vehicle under the influence of marijuana can be just as a dangerous as a driving drunk.

Besides, why would we want to send a message to a generation ripe with potential that getting hooked on a chemical is an okay thing? We are talking about the future leaders of our nation. All of the “Just say no!” messages fly out the window when we make laws that say, “Well, this particular drug is okay.”

Marijuana takes away motivation and passion for life and for work. When is the last time you heard of any great inventions coming out of Amsterdam, where pot has been legal for a generation?

Do we want an addicted generation? Or do we want a generation that values a sober mind and responsible behavior? The teenagers of our nation are yearning for more from life. They crave a meaningful life. Instead of pushing a message that tells them “life is hard, so ease it with a drug,” let us instead inspire them to take on the challenges of life with ingenuity, creativity and dedication.

 

Substance Abuse And Our Young People

Substance Abuse YouthThere was a time in cinematic history where virtually every actor/actress was portrayed on screen with a cigarette in hand. Smoking, it was implied, was cool. As a result everyone was doing it, including kids. Well, as awareness to the danger of smoking increased, “cool” images of smoking disappeared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about drugs and alcohol. These vices are staples in everyday media. Simply, drinking and using drugs is shown as being cool.

The numbers bear the tale. 21% of high school seniors say they get high and 41% of the same group report drinking alcohol. Our kids are literally moving around in an intoxicated daze. Immature behavior is then amplified due to being under the influence, drunk driving, poor grades and attendance, anti-social and violent behavior and the list goes on.

There is no single age group of people more affected by alcohol and drugs than young people.  Nationwide, alcohol and drugs affect each and every one of us, directly or indirectly:  in our homes, in our families, in our school, in our dorm, in our community, town or city.

More than 23 million people over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and other drugs affecting millions more people — parents, family members, friends and neighbors.  For some, one time or infrequent use of alcohol or drugs can result in tragedy: alcohol overdose (alcohol poisoning), an accident or fall when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or an arrest associated with alcohol or drugs that may cost you your reputation and/or your freedom. For others, even though they may not use alcohol or drugs, they could become a victim of an alcohol or drug-related crime. And, for yet others, what may have started as occasional use can turn into an addiction that presents extraordinary health concerns with potentially grave and tragic consequences.

The age of first use has tremendous consequences. Using alcohol and drugs before the brain has fully developed increases your risk for future addiction to alcohol and drugs dramatically. Young people who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. Research for drug use and drug addiction has found similar results.

Family history plays a huge role in addiction . Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment: peers, family, and availability. But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics. Plain and simple, people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.  If you have a family history of alcoholism or addiction, you are four times more likely to develop a problem.

The bottom line is no one has ever won the game against alcohol and drugs. It always wins. Whether you recover or not, the damage has been done to yourself, your family, and friends. The best advice, stay away from it.

 

 

 

Stop Letting People…

Stop letting people dump on your dreams. Life will test you to see how serious you are about pursuing your dreams.  And sooner or later you’re going to face negative feedback from others.  When this happens, remember not to let anyone crush your spirit.  If you are passionate about something, pursue it, no matter what anyone else thinks.  That’s how dreams are achieved.

Stop letting naysayers talk you out of putting in the extra effort. Hard times often lead to greatness.  Keep the faith.  It will be worth it in the end.  The beginnings to great things are always the hardest.

Stop letting people bully you. Bullying is not OK.  Period.  There is no freedom on Earth that gives someone the right to assault who you are as a person.  Sadly, some people just won’t be happy until they’ve pushed your ego to the ground and stomped on it.  What you have to do is have the nerve to stand your ground.  Don’t give them any leeway.  Nobody has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.

Stop letting friends be untrue to you. What is a true friend?  Someone who loves you no matter what, but still inspires you to be a better person.  Be a true friend to others, and keep only true friends close to you.

Stop letting people keep you bitter. Remember, the first to apologize is the bravest.  The first to forgive is the strongest.  The first to move forward is the happiest.  Always.

Stop letting people use your past to poison your present. Life is too short to tirelessly struggle with old news and those who refuse to let it go.  Some people cannot stand that you’re moving on with your life and so they will try to drag your past to catch up with you.  Do not help them by acknowledging their behavior.  Keep moving forward.  Practice forgiveness.  Letting go of the past is your first step to happiness.

What Are We Creating?

troubled-teensThere is no question that America’s youth are facing tremendous challenges that are holding them back from reaching their full potential. Risky behaviors, including alcohol, illegal drug and tobacco use, violence, and early sexual activity, are among the leading causes for unreached potential in teenagers.  However, I believe the reason these problems exist for our nations youth are much deeper than the visible surface issues of just risky behaviors.  I am convinced, that a majority of teenagers’ problems exist because of the steady decline of value systems, the lack of parental involvement, and the gradual move away from teaching the importance of having good character.

Studies indicate that a lot of people are afraid of the kind of society we are becoming in the United States.  Many people think that there is some significant difference between kids today and kids “like we were,” and they believe things are deteriorating.  Based on 14 years of speaking to more than 3 million people I am convinced that things are deteriorating and believe that most Americans are genuinely concerned by the world they see.   Its almost as though we’ve lost interest in raising children in our society, and a good deal of our problem comes from that.  Teenagers today are spending more time with their friends and less time with adult supervision and the results are that they have become responsible for socializing one another.

Parents and teachers see the need and feel as if they are not equipped to do a good enough job and are asking themselves, “How can we better influence the kind of people that our kids become?”  Simply put, parents and teachers are desperate for help and are looking to companies like ours who provide real and authentic character development assemblies, programs and resources.

Character education is needed in every school in the United States regardless of demographics; from urban to rural, the need exists.  It is vital for every student, regardless of background, ethnicity or societal status.  Youth throughout America face the same needs, the same challenges, and the same realities in their lives.  I believe in order to mold and shape the value systems of teenagers, we have to be willing to devote more time, effort and resources that will inspire, educate and equip them to embrace character as a lifestyle. I may be old school but I still believe that integrity, respect, honesty, perseverance, compassion and courage are the fundamental building blocks for building a better society.

Just think what life would be like in the future if teenagers were encouraged to embrace a lifestyle of doing whatever they wanted, without regard for consequences. The most important thing in life would be to get exactly what you want, whenever you want, and by any means necessary. Thus, you have the absolute right to do whatever you have to do, to satisfy whatever desire, craving, or wish you have.  Tell the truth at all times, unless it’s to your advantage to lie, deceive, or tell a partial truth.  Never take responsibility for anything. That way, you never have to worry that you may have done the wrong thing. Blame the misfortunes of the world, and in your own life, on the poor judgment of other people.  Keep your promises, unless something better comes along.  Kindness is for wimps. Let your true feelings show, no matter how unpleasant they may be.  Show care and compassion for your fellow human beings, unless they’ve hurt you. In that case, all bets are off. Have little or no regard for how your actions affect other people. It’s their problem, not yours, if they’re offended or harmed by what you say or do.  Never, ever cheat, unless you can get away with it.  Do not, under any circumstance, report wrongdoings you observe. Don’t get involved. It’s none of your business. Always follow the New Golden Rule: “Do unto others before they do unto you.”  In other words…Think about yourself, and only about yourself, and you will be fine.

Seriously, how long could anyone live this way? What would the world look like if everyone followed these rules? It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s in our countries own best interest to teach our children the importance of character and to take ethics seriously.  Yes, it’s possible to imagine a world without character. But is that a world in which any rational person would want to live? 

The Two Sides of Peer Pressure

Hands lifting armLast year, a Wall Street Journal article revealed new findings that suggest teens may fall prey to peer pressure so easily “because their brains derive more pleasure from social acceptance than adult brains, and not because teens are less capable of making rational decisions.” In other words, when you’re a teen you tend to place a higher value on being liked than when you’re an adult.

But here’s where the article takes an unexpected turn and raises a very important point. It reminds us that peer pressure has historically been a negative phrase, but it doesn’t have to be. When teens and adults alike mention peer pressure, our assumption is that the pressure they are referring to is leading a person to do something detrimental, dangerous, even illegal. But, the article points out, that is not always the case. Ultimately, the effects of peer pressure come down to who you choose as your peers. And you do have a choice.

If your friends put a high value on good grades and getting into a great college, the pressure they put on you—whether directly with their words or indirectly with their own actions—is that you should work hard in class and steer clear of trouble. If your friends are serious about sports or being in top shape, they are likely going to be people who peer pressure you into training hard, persevering, and steering clear of drugs and alcohol.

A old phrase that I often use when I’m speaking on peer pressure is: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” The point I’m trying to make is that your peers—especially when you are younger—can make or break you. Yes, your peers can pressure you to do things that are detrimental to your future. But only if you’ve chosen to be friends with people who are doing the wrong things. If you choose your peers more wisely, they can pressure you to do the very things that are most beneficial to your future.

In the end, peer pressure can push you down the path to your dreams. You just have to choose the right peers. It’s one of the biggest choices you make in life.