Teenager Recalls Spell Marijuana Cast Over Her

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Aug 8, 2003.

  1. By Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
    Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Maggie didn't plan to smoke marijuana. But she invited a friend to sleep over one night, and the friend showed up with some pot, a little something from her older sister.
    Maggie was 14 years old. Her parents hadn't warned her about drugs except to say, "Don't do them," words that had no impact. If she'd had any drug education in school, it hadn't stuck with her.

    Looking back now at age 18, after five months of a 10-month residential drug treatment program at the Cornell Abraxas Center for Adolescent Females, she realizes that she really didn't know anything about marijuana.

    "I wanted to fit in with everybody," said Maggie, who lives in the Pittsburgh area. "I just started experimenting. And I had some other family problems, and I thought it could help me."

    That's just the kind of experience that is putting representatives of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, on the road in 24 cities this summer, trying to fight the pop-culture image of marijuana as a drug that's relatively harmless.

    The agency did a study a year and a half ago showing that of the marijuana references in the news, only 6 percent dealt with negative impacts. It found little information about studies showing that today's marijuana is seven to 14 times more potent than what was available at Woodstock. Or that recent research into brain development shows that marijuana can cause bigger problems for teenagers than originally thought.

    Or that 38 percent of Pennsylvania youths 12 to 17 who entered drug treatment centers in 2001 had a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependency.

    "There are too many people who think of it as a rite of passage," Marianne Turkal, assistant program director for the Cornell Abraxas program Maggie attends, said during yesterday's program in Pittsburgh. "When you've come to accept that everybody does it, it's a rite of passage, you're basically lost."

    Ralph Tarter, the director of the Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research at the University of Pittsburgh, stressed that he didn't want to exaggerate the addictiveness of marijuana. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of users will become addicted, he said, adding that the number is comparable to the number of cigarette smokers who eventually develop lung cancer.

    "And that's not to say that the intermediate stages are irrelevant," he said.

    Regular marijuana use, he said, affects the frontal lobes of the brain and "damages the ability to meet challenges in everyday society," something he believes is particularly dangerous in a high-tech society. It can reduce the efficiency of the immune system and induce panic attacks, which can occur when the brain loses the ability to evaluate risks. There are some negative effects on the reproductive and endocrine systems, as well.

    Marijuana addiction, Turkal said, is particularly subtle, unlike cocaine or heroin. When deprived of marijuana, addicts don't shake or throw up or walk around with bloodshot eyes. But not only does it lead to trying strong drugs, it can cause problems on its own.

    "Nobody volunteers for addiction," Turkal said. "It creeps up on you."

    Which is exactly what happened to Maggie.

    Six months after her first hit of marijuana, she was using pills and beginning to try heroin. She quit her job, and with a "good" cut of marijuana costing about $50 (and lasting only a few hours), she began stealing to support her habit. Usually calm, she became angry.

    She slept a lot. Stayed home from school "sick" more often. Stayed out late.

    Sometimes when she was with her friends, they would say, "Let's try to stay sober." They always failed, she said, unable to find something else interesting to do. "Especially in the winter," she said. "I always relapsed in the winter."

    Her grades dropped. Two teachers pulled her aside after class, asking first if there were anything she wanted to talk about and then, flat out, "Are you on drugs?"

    Maggie responded, "Are you crazy?" and left the discussions believing she had tricked the teachers.

    "I thought I was slick," she said. "I thought I wasn't obvious. I think deep down, I knew it was obvious. But I was in denial. I got real defensive."

    Repeated attempts from her parents to stop her drug use failed. Last summer, after two years of use, she went to a 30-day boot camp, which didn't work. Then she attended three outpatient rehabilitation programs, none of which helped, either, because she continued to use drugs on the program's off days. "It was more like aftercare," she said.

    Only now, in the residential program, does Maggie believe she is truly making progress. And she's thinking about her addiction and how she could have avoided it.

    More education is primary -- and not just from school lectures. Maggie thinks if more musical groups were making it a point to mention the dangers of marijuana, and if her parents had provided her with more specifics at a younger age, she would have better prepared to deal when she was offered the pot.

    "We tend in this country to concentrate on one drug at a time," Turkal said. "Others came to the forefront after the '70s and the '80s, and now the numbers show that marijuana is up."

    Maggie wasn't a member of any organized school groups or athletic teams, either. "I think that would have helped me," she said. "I didn't feel like I fit in."

    Once she tried drugs, she said, there was little anyone could do.

    "Once I started, I didn't care what my parents had to say," she said. "They had to take action."

    After treatment, however, Maggie better appreciates her parents, which is something the government campaign wants to bring to the forefront. Parents, the commercials and brochures stress, can be the "anti-drug" -- what keeps teenagers sober.

    Maggie believes it. She said of her parents, "I think they're my only true friends."

    Newshawk: Paul Armentano - http://www.norml.org/
    Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
    Author: Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
    Published: Thursday, August 07, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 PG Publishing
    Contact: letters@post-gazette.com
    Website: http://www.post-gazette.com/
  2. Wow..talk about adding to the porpaganda. I think she's only showing one side and that she's doing it to impress the masses.

    I'm going to let her know I disagree and that I think she is adding to the governments lies by only telling little Maggie's "story." Anyone else?

    (Lori Shontz can be reached at lshontz@post-gazette.com.)

    (I have her phone # too just in case!)
  3. how can sombody be addicted to marijuana. You cant get addicted like that, they are making MJ look like crack or somthing...JESUS, this shit pissess me off!

Grasscity Deals Near You


Share This Page