To Toke or Not to Toke: written by Charles Della Penna

Charles is a Nationally Certified Recovery Coach and Interventionist through The Addictions Academy and is the founder of Always in Recovery.  Our students are changing lives and achieving tremendous success!   Way to go, Charlie!

Excerpt from article originally published on BPC Parents 


To Toke or Not to Toke

Having spent a weekend at the (CCSAD) Cape Cod Symposium on Addictive Disorders last month, I have a new-found appreciation for my mother’s old saying, “If you keep smoking that sh_t, you’re going to become brain-dead”.   During the weekend, I made it a point to attend as many presentations as possible concerning the effects of adolescent marijuana use and brain development. I will attempt to recap, para-phrase and relay in a general way, what was conveyed to me as a growing misunderstanding, that smoking marijuana is OK and it really doesn’t harm kids because it’s a natural high.  As I left the weekend and began driving to yet another one of my children’s sporting events, I called my mom to say thanks for being so “blunt” about smoking “pot” when I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s. I told her that I loved her, she did her best and I wished that I listened to her more often. I am surely not a scientist, nor did I finish top in my class but I did learn life, the hard way, by trial and error. More errors than successes were the norm in my teens and 20’s.  Thankfully my 30’s and beyond have had many more successes and triumphs due to good orderly direction and listening to my elders.

Marijuana use during the crucial adolescent “synaptic pruning” years (7-22) hampers and impairs “your wiring”, forever.  Synaptic pruning is the natural process of shaping the brain in the same way as you would prune your overgrown hedges, flower beds or a garden. The brain is the most complex entity in the universe and it will create new ways to develop during marijuana use.  These new avenues of thought are slower and or take longer routes from point A to B, thus slowing down our ability to process.  The socioeconomic concerns are just as alarming because marijuana use under age 17 leads to less employment, more likely to be single (not a bad thing if you live in my house these days), lower overall life satisfaction (again, not that high at the Della Penna residence these days).  Lastly, our emotional wellbeing is also affected by marijuana use which brings us to the three horsemen of anxiety, depression and suicide.  Anxiety, depression and suicide have 2x greater odds to develop if weekly marijuana use began before the age of 15.  Therefore, teenagers need to learn to control reckless, irrational behavior and avoid consuming drugs and alcohol at all costs.

Controlling reckless and irrational behavior is easier said than done.  I am at fault more times in any given 24 hour period than most of today’s teenagers due to some of my own adolescent NON-pruning activities.  I was and still am very far from Sainthood. But, the point is, that teenage marijuana use is associated with less grey matter (thinking part), more white matter (insulation), less body height and lower body weight.  That sounds like a short, skinny, dazed and confused young person wandering aimlessly around in today’s land of high charging, high-profile, over achieving, straight A, college bound High School students. Other results have found a direct correlation between adolescent problems and marijuana use at a younger age, or with frequent use, or more potent THC levels.  The better the weed, the sooner you start smoking, the more you smoke it, the more trouble it causes.  Either way you slice it, it’s not good.


Continue to full article below: publish date, October 25th