By Laura Stack
May is Mental Health Month, which gives parents and grandparents an excellent opportunity to talk to your teens about how smoking marijuana and dabbing (inhaling the vapors of high-THC marijuana extracts) affects their mental health.
People like to joke about stoners still living in their mom’s basement at age 29, but the effects of marijuana go way beyond the classic stoner stereotypes. It not only makes you loopy and lazy, it also hurts your brain in a lot of other ways, because your mind is still forming into your young 20s.
You see, the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is a toxin. That’s why it makes you high. It’s also why the formal term for being high is “intoxication.” When you inhale 80-90% concentrations of THC of butane hash oil (BHO), you get hit three to five times harder than plain weed, all at once. For example, one edible contains around 10 mg THC, and one hit of wax can contain 600 to 800 mg of THC. This can cause severe damage to the young adult mind.
Some people like to sweep the harmful effects of THC under the rug, and they think, “Ah, it’s no big deal. I’m smoked pot when I was a kid, too, and I turned out fine.” But TODAY’s pot isn’t your pot. It’s harmful effects are very different.
Detective Kyle Seasock of the Westminister, CA Police Department said in a recent presentation for at Behavioral Health Services, Inc. on Growing Prevention: Drug Trends, “Butane Hash Oil (Honey Oil, Wax, Shatter) is exponentially more potent than your standard weed. Butane is used to extract the THC, which isn’t a natural element that should go into your body. The potency is so different from the olden days. The plants are on fake light, fake oxygen, and they get steroids, so the THC levels are astronomically high. We have teens having issues with ODs on this, because there’s not an exact science on how much THC is in what. The THC is having lasting effects on these kids who are overdosing on THC. It has the opposite effect of the calming nature they expect, and they become very combative. We get calls for THC overdoses (marijuana poisoning) EVERY DAY. It literally causes them to freak out; it’s scary. It looks like the old bad LSD overdoses where people just go crazy. It’s very similar, but they’re kids, mostly late junior high though early college years, ages 13-20. The body is still developing and can’t handle the chemical changes the THC provides.”
The harsh truth is, young people aren’t ready to consume pot, especially high-THC concentrates. Their brains can’t cope with its demands. You probably won’t keel over from one dose… probably. But long-term use of any cannabis, especially when you start young, can:
- Slow your mental development.
- Permanently lower your IQ.
- Kill your motivation and ambition.
- Compromise your judgment.
- Cause depression.
- Make you paranoid (in high doses).
- Cause psychotic breaks or psychosis.
- Trigger schizophrenia if it runs in your family.
- Result in addiction.
- Ruin your mind and your life.
- Cause suicidal thoughts — and suicide.
That doesn’t even cover all the terrible ways your dabbing can hurt your family, friends, and even total strangers. My son, Johnny, who died by suicide on November 20, 2019, had smoked marijuana since age 14 or 15. He started his senior year of high school with a 4.0 GPA, so it was kind of easy to just think, “Oh, he’s just fine. Clearly his grades aren’t suffering.” He ended his senior year by barely graduating with four D’s. Frequent dabbing of high-THC marijuana absolutely wrecked him mentally.
Then his continued usage in college caused paranoid schizophrenia, where he thought the mob was after him and the university was an FBI base. When he died, he reported in his journal “the whole world knew everything about him.” From the outside, Johnny usually looked normal. He could put up a good front and seemed lucid. But mentally, he was in terrible shape, and he knew it. He told me three days before he died that weed had ruined his mind and his life and how sorry he was about the bad decisions he’d made.
Please don’t ruin an otherwise bright mind and future by using marijuana when your brain is still forming! You don’t even know you’re doing it to yourself if you don’t understand how potent today’s marijuana is. Putting a gun into the hand of a child doesn’t make it his fault if he hurts himself. But now you know. Take this very seriously, please. This stuff is dangerous.
Use Mental Health Month as an opportunity to talk to your teens about today’s marijuana and dabbing, especially if they already have mental health issues or experience sudden mood changes. If you’d like to learn more about Mental Health Month, here’s a great toolkit you can download: https://www.mhanational.org/mental-health-month
To learn more about how marijuana stunts the mental health of young people, check out the many links on our site at https://johnnysambassadors.org/mental-illness/. Please help our non-profit, www.JohnnysAmbassadors.org spread the word about substance abuse, mental health, and suicide prevention in youth. Thank you for being an Ambassador!