This month, Caron Treatment Centers is launching its first “Take Back 420” initiative to promote awareness, empowerment of our youth, encourage prevention, and inform communities about the danger of using marijuana recreationally. April 20th is well known as “national marijuana smoking day”. Our goal is to reinvent the meaning of the day.
As an example of how one community is celebrating Take Back 420, Caron and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Drug Free Coalition will be sponsoring a field day at a local park for its high school and middle school students on April 20th. Students will be able to participate in games, such as corn hole and compete in a kick ball tournament among other activities. There are also plans for a dj and local treatment providers will have prevention and intervention information. This will give students a healthy alternative on April 20th. Other Take Back 420 initiatives include schools making banners and having their students sign them as a pledge to not use marijuana. Schools will also be providing hand-outs containing facts about the impact of marijuana on the developing brain. We’re encouraging all the schools where our Student Assistant Specialists are engaged to participate in these activities.
The Origins of 4/20: In 1971, a group of California high school students started meeting outside their school to smoke marijuana at 4:20 p.m. As the practice spread, the term 420 entered the culture and the rock band Grateful Dead popularized it even more.
The Current Perception: Although marijuana is illegal for recreational use in 46 states, it is often perceived as a rite of passage despite the social, legal, and physical consequences. This is especially concerning as it relates to today’s teens. A 2015 survey from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported “continued high rates of daily use among 12th graders and ongoing declines in perception of its harms.” We need to stop referring to marijuana as a “gateway drug” because this implies that it is less dangerous to teens and young adults than other substances. About 40% of our adolescent and 35% of our young adult patients identify marijuana as their drug of choice upon admission to Caron.
The Impact/Effects: The average amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana (the substance that contributes to its psychoactive effects) has risen from under 1 percent in the 1970s to almost 13 percent today. We have seen an increase in psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations and difficulty concentrating in patients who are heavy marijuana users. Some users also experience symptoms, such as panic attacks and paranoia. NIDA found that the drug can have a devastating impact on the developing brain of teens and young adults. Marijuana directly affects the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, and reaction time.
Here are some tips on how to talk to your kids about marijuana:
1. Have a clear message
Caron experts believe that society is sending a permissive message to young people. However, it’s important to be clear with your children that marijuana exposure in the developing brain could adversely affect maturation and may increase susceptibility to marijuana addiction.
As marijuana becomes more accepted in society – it creates a dangerous misperception among the general population that marijuana is safe and healing.
2. Find teachable moments
Unfortunately, marijuana is often trivialized and normalized by popular culture; it’s now common to see primetime television shows, films, or people on social media reference marijuana in a casual way. Youth may start to experience pressure within their peer group to try it. Talk to your kids about the dangers of use and the negative effects.
Here are some conversation starters:
How do you feel when you hear about kids abusing alcohol or other drugs? – Take the time to listen to your child’s thoughts and lean in to those things that will motivate them to continue to make positive choices.
What would you say if a group tried to pressure you and your friends to use marijuana or other drugs? – If your child is struggling to come up with a response, talk through options.
Why do you think kids take risks or abuse alcohol or other drugs? – Talk through personal goals and why your child might not want to risk using substances.
3. Don’t volunteer information about your past experiences
Unless your child asks you about your use, don’t share any information about your experience with marijuana. If your child does ask, respond honestly by saying that you wish you had made a different decision. Do not glamorize it.
For more information on marijuana, here are some resources: