Aside from their somewhat-troubling liking for high-tech and tasty vape, American teens today are making mostly good decisions. (And, to be fair, it wasn’t teens who made nicotine-delivery devices so delicious.)
Teens are advocating for sensible gun regulations. Teens aren’t reacting to marijuana legalization by running to the nearest cannabis dispensary and begging everyone they see in the parking lot to buy them a few grams.
Today’s teens are, generally speaking, not drinking alcohol or using tobacco products, even the alluring Juul. Some 46 percent of teens told researchers collecting data for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that they use nothing at all — they are entirely abstemious (aside from the serotonin hits released when they post viral content).
What more teens are doing, according to a new study, is reaching to cannabis as their first experience with an environment-altering substance. According to new research published in the journal Prevention Science, eight percent of teens said cannabis was the first drug they ever used — up from 4.8 percent in 2004, as Newsweek reported.
Rationally speaking, this is not a cause for alarm. Rationally speaking, this is a good thing.
Think about it for a second. Nicotine, the chemical stimulant in tobacco, is addictive — and tobacco is absolutely deadly. If you smoke, you will likely die from smoking, which is why we have “don’t start” drilled into our heads. Alcohol, while pleasurable and, possibly even beneficial in small doses, kills 4,300 American youth every year. It is so predictable as to be boring white noise at this point, but in this context, it’s relevant: The number of recorded deaths attributable to marijuana use is a grand zero.
There are two ways this data will probably be interpreted. One is the prohibitionist’s line. Marijuana legalization is leading more teens to use cannabis! And cannabis is bad for a developing brain. This is not wrong — yes, there’s more weed around, and more teens might be compelled to try weed, because they assume that it’s not quite as harmful as other substances, and not nearly as harmful as they’ve been led to believe. Here’s the thing about this line of reasoning — it’s not wrong!
And that brings us to the other take to be had on this matter. Teens are smart, and if they must choose some chemical method of altering their consciousness — which they will and only a deluded fool would pretend otherwise — choosing cannabis over addictive and deadly substances is the wisest choice.
Yes, people can be addicted to cannabis, and yes, cannabis might exacerbate underlying mental-health and psychological issues. It’s not without risk. But the risk is exponentially lower than with America’s other tonics of choice. If a kid starts smoking cigarettes early, just like the tobacco industry has been trying to get them to do for generations, they will likely become a lifetime smoker. We hear much about cannabis’s impact on a developing brain, but we absolutely know alcohol consumption interrupts critical brain development.
So while it might be unseemly to start high-fiving the teens slinking away to sneak a blunt, if we are honest, we must admit: Of all the options available to them, at the very, very least, marijuana is the least-bad choice available.
TELL US, what substances did you try as a teen?