I’ve been offered weed…is it safe?

Q. I have been offered weed by close friends at school, grade 8. Lots of my friends use it, lots of parents don’t stop their children and some openly use it too. I guess it must be safe since everybody using weed seems ok. Is it dangerous to start? I heard about gateways not sure what that means.

A. So ‘it’s organic don’t panic’? Sadly there is reason to panic as we never know if we’re going to be the one who just gets a bit chilled from using weed (and happy and laid back with racing thoughts and very hungry after). That would be the positive scenario and the one that you are referring to when you see lots of people using and talking about how okay it is. I reckon that the parents who let their children use are those people who used weed when they were younger and nothing bad happened to them. They probably feel it’s ‘cool’ parenting for them to allow their children to use; after all – they used and nothing happened so if they allow their children they can get a bit of ‘street cred’ with not only their children but their children’s friends as well.

That’s all well and good but for a couple of things: The first is that when these parents were your age, weed was weed. Now days, weed can be filled with things that are pretty toxic and people are never told that the weed has something else in it. I know of a girl whose mother tested her after using just weed and cocaine showed up in the test. The girl was shocked and it just went to prove that you never really know what you’re getting and so you’re not nearly as in control as you might think you are.

The second thing is that everybody who starts taking weed (or any other drug for that matter) starts because they are curious or they want to be part of the group, or they heard it was a fun thing to do. But – and this kind of answers your second question in part – nobody knows if they are going to land up being recreational users or , as time goes by, addicts. And by the time they become addicts, their life has spun quite out of control and they are helpless to manage and control what was in the beginning, a fun venture that brought with it promise of a good time. Raella Abel, Clinical Social Worker

Q. I’ve also been told that some people can be at more risk for addiction and psychological damage than others, I don’t understand that. My mom has a friend, a lawyer who smokes weed every day and seems ok and a bit weird but she functions. Someone else had a nervous breakdown while using dope.

A. To answer your second question more directly, there are definitely people who are more at risk for addiction and these are firstly those who have parents, siblings, or even an uncle or cousin that are addicts or alcoholics. This is because addiction is what we call a hereditary disease. That means it runs in families and if you have it in your family you are more likely to get it than if you don’t have it in your family.

The second reason is that addiction is often something that happens to a person who feels something like emptiness inside; a difficulty with facing negative feelings and allowing themselves to feel them. So addiction can take a hold of someone who has that kind of psychological makeup. Having said that , someone who has a totally well-functioning internal world (i.e. their mind/psyche) , as well as a very well-functioning family with no psychological problems and no history of addiction, can take some weed and go psychotic the very first time they use it. Going psychotic means that the person loses touch with reality and has difficulty with getting back into and connecting with reality again.

Lastly, something that a lot of parents don’t understand is that young people are very susceptible to something going wrong because their brains are not developed fully yet, and no one can predict how any external substance is going to affect them.

Weed is seen to be a gateway drug meaning that people start using it and then often inevitably, they want to get a stronger hit or a different kind of hit (different drugs have different kinds of effects) and so they start using something heavier and more addictive. Part of the addiction profile is that it always progresses – i.e. people start wanting more and more of an effect and so the usage follows a pattern of using more (in quantity) and using more (in terms of heavier and more impacting drugs). Raella Abel, Clinical Social Worker