Ironwood Maine Op-Ed

Ironwood Maine Op-Ed: Retail Outlets for Recreational Marijuana

I was recently asked by a close friend who works with youth in Duxbury, what I thought about the town bringing in retail outlets for recreational marijuana.  I’m sure she was surprised by how quickly I launched into my very strong opinion that nothing about this concept is good for Duxbury, or any other town.

My experience and perspective come from years of working with struggling teenagers.  As a psychotherapist and the Director of a residential therapeutic boarding school for teenagers, I can tell you that what I see today as significant mental health issues with teens, is far worse than even 3-5 years ago. Our current culture is creating a generation of isolated, depressed and anxious young men and women. Social media and gaming addiction is real and likely the original source of why these issues are so predominant in today’s teen world. However, the dual issue of substance abuse, especially with marijuana, is definitely adding insult to injury.

I talk to families from all over the country, in crisis, just about every day of my life.  The stories are similar.  The child that they once knew, usually within a year or two, has completely disengaged on every level, in some way: educationally, socially, physically and relationally. They are depressed and anxious. Evidence of self-harm or suicidal ideation usually co-exists, either with substance abuse (alcohol, marijuana and/or pills), cutting, and/or a pattern of habitual self-loathing has become a mindset.  Parents are typically the primary target of extreme disrespect, defiance and/or complete emotional cut-off and disconnection by their adolescent.  The household is “walking on eggshells”. I know I’m not the first person to say that there is an epidemic emerging.  Our families are struggling, internally, the system is breaking from within.

When I think about parents using recreational marijuana in front of their children or retail outlets emerging in small town America, essentially condoning its use, I know it will only makes things worse.  Teens already believe this drug is the great panacea of all things difficult in life, now their role models will be confirming it. The negative, long term effects of marijuana on the teenage brain are well documented.  It isn’t just about that, for me, it’s about communication and connection within the family, it’s about being awake and aware as a parent, and it’s about recognizing and preventing loneliness and isolation in our children.

The issues we see everyday in the media: mass school shootings, overdose victims and teen suicide all begin with a lonely, isolated, disconnected child. How can normalizing the use of a drug that disconnects people, further, possibly contribute to anything positive in our world?

Susan Horton, LMFT

Ironwood Maine