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Friend is doing pot, is this bad?
December 26, 2011 5:16 AM   Subscribe

Asking-for-a-friend filter: One of my closest friends recently began using pot. She told me that she liked it and plans to keep using it. I'm concerned because I dont want to see anything bad to happen to her. Should I be concerned? Can pot cause any serious problems, mentally or physically? Is there much of anything I can do at this point? We are still in high school too. Thanks for any advice you can give me. I really wish to help this friend.

My friend originally posted this on a different forum, but I figured we might get more useful advice here on good ol' AskMeFi.
posted by Senza Volto to Health & Fitness (61 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
In high school, the biggest concern is not getting caught. You have very little privacy at that age, so you end up smoking in public places, hiding your stash from your parents, etc.

But honestly, pot is pretty commonly used. Some adults smoke pot like other adults drink wine or beer. In many adult circles, pot is NO BIG DEAL.

Someone else will post what the health effects are (they're not TERRIBLE), but as far as your friend, tell him/her how you feel and decide if maintaining the friendship is worth it to you.
posted by k8t at 5:49 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Health wise, it's got about the same long term bad effects as smoking cigarettes does --- it's not great for your lungs to be holding a bunch of smoke in them (though vaporisers can ameliorate some of that). But since the average pot smoker's not smoking twenty joints a day like a cigarette smoker, less of a worry.

Impairment wise, it's no worse than being drunk --- not a great idea to drive while high, because your reaction times are slower, etc. But overall pot's less likely to put you in physical danger than alcohol --- smoke too much and you get the munchies and fall asleep, drink too much you get rowdy, fall down, start fights, etc. You can't OD on pot the way you can on booze, also, and it won't make you hurl the way drinking too much will. also, no hangover.

Other than that you main risk is getting caught. At your age, both pot and booze are illegal, but pot will get you in more trouble. In some states nowadays getting caught with a joint is about as bad as a parking ticket, but in other places you can still get convicted of a crime --- you're probably not going to do hard time or anything, but it's a lot easier to get through life without a record.

So: don't drive, don't deal, and don't smoke in public, and your friend should pretty much be alright.
posted by Diablevert at 6:02 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


In high school, the main problem with pot is the kind of people who hang around with when you smoke pot. Drug use aside, how do you feel about the friends she's hanging out with? That's the real thing to be concerned about -- are they mean? Taking advantage of her? Too old for her to be hanging around with?

There's nothing you can do to make her stop smoking pot, really. Just don't be a scold and find stuff for you guys to do that isn't getting high, if you don't like it and don't want to be around it.

But really, it's not the end of the world, as long as she can keep up with classes, etc.. (a lot of people can, a lot can't).
posted by empath at 6:03 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


In high school, the biggest concern is not getting caught. You have very little privacy at that age, so you end up smoking in public places, hiding your stash from your parents, etc.

needs to be stressed. at this age if she gets busted she'll be in for quite a round of legal issues as courts generally make young offenders jump through all kinds of hoops. also, a conviction at her age will cause problems for her down the road.
posted by lester at 6:05 AM on December 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Convictions for the possession and sale of illegal drugs can disqualify you from receiving financial aid for college.

Here's the question itself on the FAFSA, with guidelines on when to select "yes" or "no".
posted by mdonley at 6:05 AM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


I would say the biggest issue is that it's illegal, and if you get caught, the sentences can be RIDICULOUS, at least assuming you're in the United States. As k8t has noted, high schoolers aren't in as good a position as adults to hide it. That would be my main concern.

As for anything else, well, I doubt you'll get an answer that feels satisfying because there's no great way of knowing whether anything problematic will happen. Off the top of my head, here are some bad things:

- Some people do become the stoner stereotype that do nothing but smoke pot and talk about pot and their pot use begins to adversely affect their life, their ability to hold a job, etc.

- Drug tests can make it difficult to get jobs, though there are ways around this (including just not smoking it for some time).

- Some people freak out and have negative reactions to it. If your friend doesn't, it's probably not an issue. Apparently this can happen to people out of nowhere sometimes, or after a long period without smoking it and then smoking it again, though I don't hear of it very often.

- Some people do move on to harder drugs from there.

- Then there's the bad stuff that comes with any kind of inebriation (stupid decisions, car accidents, etc) though I think alcohol is worse in this regard.

But yeah, it is common and plenty of people hold jobs and don't become dependent on it or do any harder drugs or freak out or do anything stupid or get thrown in jail. The thing is, there's probably not much you can do to dissuade your friend; if they're so inclined to say, try harder drugs, or become the stoner stereotype, telling them drugs are bad probably isn't going to do any good. People tend to try what they want to try, and telling them not to can just make them want to try more. It sucks when you're concerned but all you can do is sit back and let them do their experimenting, and reassess things later. If your friend starts to have a serious drug problem or something, you can try addressing it then. If your friend's drug use makes them a bad friend, you can try addressing it then. And then all you can do is decide if you want to keep being friends, based on their reaction. It's not really a situation where you can look very far into the future, unfortunately.

I feel for your situation; I had friends in middle school and high school start drinking really early and try various drugs, and I was really freaked out for them at first, but then I just had to let go of it. I had a friend who was messed up for a while and then turned out okay after college after all. I had another friend who smoked pot in high school and still does has always done really well in all aspects of life. I don't actually have any friends who smoked pot and turned out badly, but they do exist and I don't know if it's just luck or how I select my friends or what. You can't really know what's going to happen with people.

In the end, if you friend insists that they're going to do it, then focus on the present and encourage them to NOT GET CAUGHT. And also encourage them not to get high around people they can't trust, especially if your friend is female. Past that, you have little control over whether your friend takes your concerns to heart or follows your advice or what. Be prepared to give them lots of advice that gets ignored. Sucks, but it's life.
posted by Nattie at 6:10 AM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Let's look at how pot works. You get th effects because when you smoke pot, it blacks or hinders the synapses from occurring. The blockage at first is reversible but with constant use and long term use, the synapses will eventually be permanently blocked. There is no rhyme or reason to which types of synapses will be blocked first or in any particular sequence. You can randomly lose perfect function of short term memory or the ability to speak well or what ever else. Certainly, many people operate perfectly fine, but imagine how spectacularly they could be functioning. Is your friend ready to impair her brain functions before going and while going to college or university?

In simple respiratory damage, smoking one joint is the equivalent of smoking seven cigarettes. You know what cigarettes can do so I don't have to explain that.

Others have explained the legal implications here.

Hope that helps!
posted by Yellow at 6:23 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was given to understand, by my mom when I was 16, that it's normal to experiment but to do it carefully. And that it's not such a big deal anyway.

But it is an impairment of the mental faculties. I don't really have a use for it in my own life now, aside from an occasional smoke as a way to relax. Refreshing a few times a year. Ultimately, all the great things you think pot has to offer are better obtained by living a vigorous life mentally, physically, and emotionally.

So maybe the best attitude to take with your friend is, meh about the pot, and focus on your friendship.
posted by maniabug at 6:33 AM on December 26, 2011


I am a proponent of responsible cannabis use. Mind you, I didn't start in High School, and don't think people in that age group should be using illict substances.

As many have already pointed out, the main and major risk is getting caught up by the legal system. I avoided it until medical laws passed in my state by common sense. Don't smoke and drive, don't carry more than you will consume, never have glass or metal paraphenila on my persons (learn to roll, easy to dispose of if necessary). Just don't be careless.

Healthwise, the reason I use cannabis is for arthritis. I have been smoking almost daily since 19. I have worked full time during that period, received a Bachelors degree, and now working on my Masters. The effects are rather normalized at my point of usage, and it is rather harmless as far as effects. I have notice some espousal of cannabis myths concerning lung cancer, and others. What I would do is study what you put in your body. Get on some peer reviewed sites like JSTORE, Lexus-Nexus and read the actual studies and conclusions. You will not find many US studies, but Israel has done a ton of research on it.


The biggest problem your friend faces are legal.
posted by handbanana at 6:39 AM on December 26, 2011


A lot of brain development is still going on in adolescence, which drugs and alcohol can definitely affect. Here's just one mention of how marijuana affects the brain in heavy users:

Not that your friend is going to be a heavy user, but chemical substances do have an impact on brain wiring that is still under construction during the late teens through early twenties. Just sayin'
posted by Elsie at 6:49 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just FYI:

Let's look at how pot works. You get th effects because when you smoke pot, it blacks or hinders the synapses from occurring. The blockage at first is reversible but with constant use and long term use, the synapses will eventually be permanently blocked. There is no rhyme or reason to which types of synapses will be blocked first or in any particular sequence. You can randomly lose perfect function of short term memory or the ability to speak well or what ever else. Certainly, many people operate perfectly fine, but imagine how spectacularly they could be functioning. Is your friend ready to impair her brain functions before going and while going to college or university?

In simple respiratory damage, smoking one joint is the equivalent of smoking seven cigarettes. You know what cigarettes can do so I don't have to explain that.


I don't think a single sentence of this is true.
posted by empath at 6:57 AM on December 26, 2011 [97 favorites]


I think you should talk to an adult you trust-- not in your school-- maybe someone who knows both of you. From the tone of your question, it sounds like you're worried about changes that go beyond pot use, and those changes are things that would require knowing you and the other people involved.
posted by vincele at 7:02 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks empath, that can't be emphasized strong enough. Many people don't know what they are talking about.

Marijuana is really safe, no od's, no long term effects, and rather easy to quit. The point out about social circles is important. I remember in HS that. Many people who started with cannabis grew into other substances. I'd chalk that up as a risk as well. I lost a couple of friends to opiate usage and a couple of overdoses.
posted by handbanana at 7:06 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's no physical or mental harm in smoking marijuana. There's a ton of physically harmful things to smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. But before this turns into a cliche college essay on legality of marijuana:

But honestly, pot is pretty commonly used. Some adults smoke pot like other adults drink wine or beer. In many adult circles, pot is NO BIG DEAL.

Just because pot is no big deal doesn't mean it isn't a big deal. In a lot of circles this is true, in a lot it is not and it is stigmatized. If your friend chooses to smoke, discretion is key. I enjoyed marijuana more than alcohol in college, so if I met a new group of friends and had them over I'd immediately suggest smoking. This turned a lot of people off, obvious in retrospect, and at the time I had a high horse stance that if they were that turned off by weed, they weren't opened minded enough to be around me.

That would be the best advice I'd have for your friend, and I'd also not be judgmental if she wants to smoke. That's a quick way to alienate a friend, and more importantly not have a lifeline friend when her other friends (maybe, possibly) decide to get into coke or whatever.
posted by geoff. at 7:09 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Look, pot, like anything else, does not have a one-size-fits-all effect. For me, I feel lazy and dull. My dear friend becomes a creative machine, churning out work. So your friend's MMV.

And yeah, empath, I'm with ya.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:10 AM on December 26, 2011


I think you should talk to an adult you trust-- not in your school-- maybe someone who knows both of you

By far the best answer here. You are a thoughtful and concerned person to be asking this question, but it's far better to approach an adult you both know and trust than to ask anonymous people on the Internet.
posted by jayder at 7:10 AM on December 26, 2011


Like empath the only reason I am posting is to counteract Yellows assertion because they are talking absolute shit.

Synapses don't get blocked, reuptake channels on various pathways can be blocked, but they are blocked temporarily, and those channels are refreshed constantly in the lifecycle of the cell.
posted by koolkat at 7:11 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Something else to think about - for you personally. When your friend gets busted with pot, you as one of her closest friends will be guilty by association. It 's not fair, you may have never touched the stuff, but nobody will believe that you weren't at least a casual user.
posted by COD at 7:14 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Too many variables. I would hate to say it's no big deal when it turns out your friend has, e.g., an undiagnosed mood disorder, or wants to work in government someday, or is on a varsity sports team, or fancies herself an activist and is likely to draw police scrutiny for other reasons. This is why you need to talk to a responsible (not easily freaked out, not too casual either - your pediatrician is a good possibility) adult about this. Preferably one who knows you both, know what your school's drug testing rules are, etc.
posted by SMPA at 7:14 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you should talk to an adult you trust-- not in your school-- maybe someone who knows both of you. From the tone of your question, it sounds like you're worried about changes that go beyond pot use, and those changes are things that would require knowing you and the other people involved.

I understand the temptation to do this, but since this can have very real lifetime legal ramifications for your friend, please don't do this unless you know that the party is not going to go to the police or her parents.

Your impressions of marijuana are likely based on widespread cultural propaganda. The risk that pot will harm your friend physically is near zero. You would have much more reason to be concerned if she was drinking beer--a substance that is easy to overdose on, and can cause liver damage even in short term use. It's also impossible to become physically dependent on pot.

Other people will tell you that it might make your friend a lazy stoner. Honestly, I've known enough successful, driven people who smoke pot to know that that's not strictly true (I know as many worthless lumps of townie flesh who don't smoke pot as do)--it's an old stereotype, though, picked up from a time when marijuana was made illegal as a way to discriminate against the Mexican laborers who frequently smoked it. This documentary is a pretty good one to give you a rundown both of the sociological history of marijuana and a background on what it does to the body.

That's not to say that it's "harmless," but most of the risks of marijuana are correlated rather than caused by the marijuana itself. Because of its legal status, your friend might have to put herself in shady situations to buy it, or may have to smoke it in places that are less than secure. I'd encourage her to find private, secure residences in which to indulge, to bring someone along when she goes to see her dealer, not to smoke in her car or drive while smoking or carry it on her when she's likely to get caught.

Other than that, you might be afraid that the fact that she's doing something "bad" means that she's growing apart from you. Know that this individuation is natural and normal. It happens to many close friends in high school--and not just over pot; boys were another frequent cause of friend breakups, and the more easy going and less judgmental you can be about these changes, the better off you'll be and more likely that your friendship will survive.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:19 AM on December 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Smoking marijuana as a teenager or young 20s raises the risk of developing schizophrenia. No increased risk with smoking after early 20s. Link
posted by jb at 7:35 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]




The biggest influence in your life at your age is your friends. So, other than the legal issues (know what they are in your area), the next biggest worry I would have is the crowd that goes along with it. Often, that crowd is interested in experimenting and may let one person bring in a drug that is more harmful than pot. Your friend needs to have good information and be strong enough to make their own decisions. Depending on the circle, this can be quite hard. However, if she decides ahead of time what the limits are and practices sticking with them, she can make it through with no long-term effects or consequences like countless people before you.

You are smart to be concerned. You are clearly a good friend. And this is a great time to establish your own limits and think about how you enforce them. Above all, you are responsible for your behavior and what you put into your body. And she has the same responsibility. It's tempting to try to police other people when you care about them and see them doing foolish things. But your best bet is to just be informed and actively make your own choices.
posted by amanda at 7:40 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone else will give you the technical specifics, the medical details and the "if careful and reasonable, moderation is fine until menopause" side of the story, as would have I. But because you are both young I want to share a story from what I've seen in my own life.

My best friend in college smoked as did most of us. But he started with breakfast and carried on all day. It did not impair his life - he graduated with a first class degree and now runs a very successful business - but has his continued and heavy use had an impact on his life? Yes, I would say so, for one I did not pursue our relationship seriously because he was never available completely for me, as a pothead he lived in a world of his own. He's graduated to hashish now since its easier in the location he's at and I can see the frustration of his wife as she manages the day to day of their business while he's stoned all day. In the 28 years since I've known him he's become a dependant alcoholic as well and has not been able (and this problem was there in college as well, I am being delicate) to father any children. He has bouts of anger and fights - all of these may be personal issues but as someone who saw him take this path from age 18 I cannot help but wonder what role the inability to control himself or the lack of moderation may have played in this evolution.

So while there's everything else to think about, there should also be consideration of what kind of person is your friend - is she strong enough to know its for recreation? Will she be able to keep her use under moderation? Will she know when its been far too many months of going through an eighth a week that perhaps its time for a break? Perhaps its a conversation you guys could have just to take the thoughts a step further to at least be aware of the down sides as well.
posted by infini at 7:47 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think what you can do at this point is be a good influence for your friend. I don't think smoking pot is going to lead anyone to a life of crime or whatever, but if you're in her life as someone who doesn't smoke and is additionally fun to be around and interested in other stuff she's into, you can go a long way in helping her not become someone who relies on pot for anything. The biggest problems she has to deal with are legal - so if she starts to see smoking as the only way to relax or be social or whatever, she runs a much greater risk of screwing up big important life stuff by running afoul of authorities. You can help her out by not condemning her and instead just being someone she can do relaxing/social/whatever stuff with without pot coming into it for you.
posted by Mizu at 7:55 AM on December 26, 2011


From my understanding, researches on the use of Cannabis and its effects are ongoing, and results are inconclusive. There are good examples and theories already mentioned above, but in any case, we should refrain from asserting self assured ideas that there are no physical or mental harm in using marijuana, or the reverse, for that matter. Here is a pretty good article (in my opinion) on the history and researches conducted on both the positive (medical) and negative effects.This one is leaning more towards advising not to use it, and has some supporting links. This mentions some ideas that Yellow has mentioned above, that some users here are dismissing as implausible.

At the end of the day, you're going to have to let your friend choose what she wants to do. But you can always try to inform her on the subject, and let her become more conscious and aware about making her decision. I am under the impression, that light use will not undermine your health instantly, and from experience, people move on as they grow older, so maybe that will be the case with your friend.
posted by snufkin5 at 8:03 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


[A few comments removed, please do not get into an extended "yuh huh!" "nuh uh!" thing in here. If you're going to talk about something from a study you read, please track down and link to the study instead of just insisting it exists.]
posted by cortex at 8:11 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not an opinion but a medical study result. You can look it up in the medical journal.

Yellow, do you have a cite, or at least the name of the Journal so we can check, is it on Pubmed? Because that does sound like NIDA talking points.

This is not to say that pot is great. It is a drug. It carries risks. It is inhaled as smoke. Can't be good.

But in the world of teen-age risky behaviors, I'd put pot below keggers, or even smoking cigarettes. The risk is only inflated because of the legal ramifications. Better if you don't do it - but your friend has already started.

But the main thing is that while most people who smoke put as young give it up or start to do less as they go into adulthood, a very small minority do become the stoner stereotype or go on to harder drugs. Hard to tell if it is cause or correlation, but I can guarantee you that, while the vast majority of people have no long term physical or mental effects, probaby every person who did fuck up their lives thought they wouldn't, and there is no real way of knowing which group your friend is in.
posted by xetere at 8:14 AM on December 26, 2011


It would be helpful for Senza Volto to state where they are located. The legal risks are very different depending on the country.
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Agreed. An entirely different concept of concern if in Amsterdam vs Singapore
posted by infini at 8:28 AM on December 26, 2011


The people who I knew in high school who smoked pot were just unbearable to talk to while high.

I've known a number of people who got themselves psychologically addicted to pot. Their lives were consumed with obtaining supply and finding times and places where they could sneak away and get their fix. When they couldn't get their fix, they were nervous wrecks. Not because of any physical addiction, mind you, but because they had trained themselves that they needed pot to be able to function.

As long as pot is illegal in [your jurisdiction] you have to deal with the legal ramifications of being around people who are violating laws. Rightly or wrongly, minors are going to get into more trouble than non-minors.

Further, in order for your friend to obtain her supply, she has to associate with people who have access to a supply. Your friendly neighborhood pot dealer might not be a creep, but they might have to hang around creeps or criminals to get their supply.

And finally, you never know what you are getting. Pot is a little harder to lace/cut than your various white powders, but it can happen.
posted by gjc at 8:42 AM on December 26, 2011


In many adult circles, pot is NO BIG DEAL.

This is very true and what's weirder about it is how not a big deal it is while to other people it's a very seriously big deal and/or the criminal penalties are severe and punishing. I think the concern for people who start smoking at a young age [besides the sort of brain development stuff which would be my main concern] is that you may be closing doors early by aligning yourself with pot-smoking if it turns out that you want to do something different with your life with people who do not share similar values about pot. So, you asked, as a friend, what would be useful to do...

I think it's useful to understand the two major sides to this issue. The one side is that it's a harmless weed, George Washington grew hemp, it's a drug that tends to not be correlated with violence or other crimes [besides the crimes of having/smoking/growing it] it makes people relaxed and somewhat placid and many many people smoke often, despite the laws about it. There's a great book called Cannabiz which talks about the pot economy especially in light of the medical marijuana movement and how that all works. I'm a pot friendly person myself who rarely smokes and I found it very interesting.

On the other hand you have people who think pot is a gateway drug to worse stuff, who take the laws very seriously, who are concerned about the effects of smoking anything generally and who just see it as a weird and inexplicable counterculture thing that makes them uncomfortable. Or they know stereotypical potheads and are concerned that excessive marijuana use may stifle creativity or other sort of social and intellectual pursuits. There are, to my mind, cogent rebuttals to a lot of this stuff, but especially as a teenager this may be a difficult path to walk. Winding up with pot-related stuff on your record [either school record or criminal record] could be a very serious problem as could an altercation with parents who have a different understanding. To a lot of people just the fact that pot is illegal [if it is, in fact, illegal where you are] is a big enough argument for not doing it. There are also concerns that sometimes people are using it to self-medicate for things like social anxiety and/or ADHD and may be avoiding getting actual medical treatments that might be more contextually effective.

Once you get older you can sort of weigh these things and decide what role you want marijuana to play in your life and how you want to present your own marijuana use to others and what your comfort level is with risk and social appropriateness. When you're younger I think people get concerned that people use it in order to avoid making more complicated life choices and then just take a sort of "stoner path of least resistance" and don't explore other options. I think as a friend, staying in touch with your friend, remaining open to her choices and being available to talk to her is the main thing. If you decide to take a hardline stance about pot use, you're more likely to just push her away. Because of pot's legal status in the US it can be tough to have open conversations about it and get good pro/con information and people tend to go with the data they like. Realistically, however, there is a huge pot industry in the US and there are a lot of fully functioning adults who are at least casual if not more frequent users. They don't fit the stereotypes so you don't really know about them, but if all you know about drug use is what you learned from health class in school, the reality is a lot more nuanced than that. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 9:10 AM on December 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


@muddgirl and infini: The friend asking this question is from Illinois, USA.
posted by Senza Volto at 9:14 AM on December 26, 2011


I had friends in high school who smoked pot (I never did). It was laced with other things that were worse for you than pot. I don't know if this is a common practice amongst unscrupulous dealers, or something you could find out ahead of time, but it would definitely be a concern for me. I'd like to know what I'm putting into my body.

Totally anecdotally, about 50% of that group of people went on to use harder stuff (coke and meth). It really, really messed them up. Pot is not a gateway drug for lots of people (probably most), but if your friend is hanging out with people who already do harder stuff, it's more readily available and it will seem more "normal" to her.

I know high school and adolescence really sucks at times, but you can get through it without drugs or alcohol and I think knowing how to cope without the use of intoxicants is a good life skill to have.
posted by desjardins at 9:18 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't just look at pot's physical and mental effects in isolation. Pot exists in a social context, and its social context in the U.S. is one of illegality and stigma. I personally think it's very irresponsible for people to advise a high-schooler to basically focus on not getting caught, minimizing its physical/mental effects, because (a) high-schoolers are very bad at concealing things, (b) getting caught can have significant repercussions in terms of family life, social life, and possible legal repercussions (I think the family/social repercussions are likely worse than the legal repercussions in many cases), (c) even if you don't get caught, use of illegal drugs in high school tends to put you among more low-achieving students who can lead you down the wrong path in school and life (since so much of one's future in middle-class world is dependent upon college admissions and such), and (d) there are so many cooler, healthy, mind-expanding, non-chemical things a high-school student can be doing than using marijuana. Learning piano. Reading Shakespeare. Rock-climbing. Creative writing. It just isn't necessary to use illegal drugs to expand your mind, and in fact in terms of opportunity costs, marijuana use is very costly for someone your age. The people I know who use marijuana are the most boring people I know. The interesting people don't have time for it -- wouldn't consider it -- because they have so many interesting things going on that they can't really do when they're high.
posted by jayder at 9:23 AM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here are the laws and penalties in Illinois. Does your friend or her parents have $1500 to spend on a fine?

I have a friend - who was an adult at the time, granted - who lived in Illinois, and simply handed money from a customer to a dealer (she says she didn't know what she was doing, but that's in dispute). Anyway, it cost her parents thousands and thousands of dollars in bail and fines and lawyer fees. It cost her jobs. Her parents kicked her out. She did something stupid at 19 and it's still on her record more than ten years later.
posted by desjardins at 9:25 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nthing that your friend should probably be most worried about the legal ramifications of getting caught. I grew up in the 70s when pot use was extremely common among a lot of high school students. My best friend got into it quite heavily, every spare moment, week-end, etc was strictly about partying, getting high, and any other activity was "uncool" or boring. She maintained good grades, though, was in the National Honor Society with me, and went on to college. You'd think her pot use would have increased while living in Ann Arbor, but for whatever reason she lost her infatuation with it and cut way down. By the time she was in her late 20s she never touched the stuff any more. I know other adults my age and older, though, who still smoke pot fairly regularly and they seem none the worse for their usage.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:58 AM on December 26, 2011


Pay her pot-smoking as little attention as possible, because at her age the attention and rebellious feelings that accompany it are every bit as intoxicating as the drug itself.

As long as she isn't putting herself at unnecessary risk or committing other crimes, I think you should let her explore. If you two are going to be friends in the long term, then you're both going to have to adjust to each other's phases of exploration. Maybe one day when you're trying something that sounds silly or foolish or dangerous to her, she'll give you the benefit of the doubt because of how supportive you were during her phases.
posted by hermitosis at 10:10 AM on December 26, 2011


When you're younger I think people get concerned that people use it in order to avoid making more complicated life choices and then just take a sort of "stoner path of least resistance" and don't explore other options.

Me thinks there's lotsa wisdom in that sentence. Far from unprecedented that teens (and adults) smoke to escape, which is not an issue if it's done once in a blue moon, but it can be if it's the norm more than the exception.

Stoner issue: If people are getting torched every day, hard to see how that's good and a reasonable question about someone's frame of mind if they have the need to be significantly impaired every day (though it's clearly not as bad on a physical level as getting drunk daily).

Also: I can live with the argument that emotional development stops when substance abuse stops, which Jess's sentence touches on. I've met heaping stacks of people who've smoked about 350 days per year for many years, since they were about 17... and in a lot of ways they act like they're 17....

Operationally, tolerance does build up: I've seen people who smoke very rarely have a hit or two and they're more than high while their stoner friends are having at least a dozen.
posted by ambient2 at 10:17 AM on December 26, 2011


Fellow Illinois resident here. Pot laws in Illinois suck. Nothing inherently wrong with pot itself, just the fact that the penalties for getting caught here are absurd. If your friend is ok with the risks (and many MANY people in Illinois are), then go for it, just be smart. That means:

1. Not smoking or transporting it in a vehicle EVER.
2. Getting a vaporizer to minimize smell.
3. Being smart about when/where they smoke.
4. Not looking like an obvious stoner.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:30 AM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


In simple respiratory damage, smoking one joint is the equivalent of smoking seven cigarettes. You know what cigarettes can do so I don't have to explain that.

As has been already stated, this statement of Yellow's is WRONG. Or more to the point, decades of peer-reviewed study has failed to prove this point. But no doubt, those who deeply fear marijuana will keep trying.

Health wise, it's got about the same long term bad effects as smoking cigarettes does --- it's not great for your lungs to be holding a bunch of smoke in them (though vaporisers can ameliorate some of that). But since the average pot smoker's not smoking twenty joints a day like a cigarette smoker, less of a worry

This is a little more vague than Yellow's statement, but could be construed to be saying sort of the same thing: marijuana smoke is MORE dangerous than cigarette smoke. Again, we have no valid science to back this assertion up. Speaking purely anecdotally, I can assert that I am aware of NO lifetime (ie: multiple decades) marijuana-only smokers who have devastating throat, lung, other issues. Which raises the question: does anyone know of any studies that may have been conducted in places like Jamaica where conspicuous marijuana consumption has been going on for much longer than good ole North America?

Inhaling marijuana smoke in the long-term is likely to result in damage to the respiratory tract.

See above. And further to that -- this statement comes from an information page that cites the National Cannabis Prevention + Information Centre (Australia), whose mission statement is "... to reduce the use of cannabis in Australia by preventing uptake and harms associated with its use in the Australian community." Note that they seem to have begun by deciding that cannabis is harmful, rather than working diligently from all available evidence ...

Which is not to say that cannabis isn't harmful. It is. Particularly for some who bring existing emotional, physical issues to it. But assuming a "normal teenager", I'm with the majority in this thread. By far, the biggest potential harm in marijuana usage lies in its illegality.

Finally, a bit of wisdom from a good friend who started smoking around age fourteen and still imbibes pretty much every day (he's now in his late 40s). "Don't overdo it when you're young. Almost everybody I know who did that eventually stopped for good, usually by their early 20s. It just ceased to be fun for them, made them paranoid etc. Which sucks for them. Because as you get older, marijuana is exactly the kind of friend you want to have ... when you need it."
posted by philip-random at 10:52 AM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Should I be concerned? Can pot cause any serious problems, mentally or physically?

Everything is dangerous in large enough quantities. Water'll kill you if you drink too much of it.

That said, pot is way way way down on the list. Like having sex at that age the most important thing is doing it responsibly, which basically means toke up in safety and whatever you do don't get caught.

(oh, and whatever you do don't get involved in the business end of things. It's the difference between a slap on the wrist and federal prison.)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:46 AM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you are concerned about long-term effects, you can read up on the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. Right now it's being discussed (kinda) on Reddit but the interesting part about this for you is how it started, what happened to the participants, and what it means about the safety of marijuana.

Think about this: There was a trial between one guy with glaucoma and the FDA, DEA, Dept. of Justice, and Dept. of Health. After the federal judge listened to both sides, he found that there was no evidence that smoking marijuana had adverse effects. This started a program that several people entered, in which the US mails them marijuana that is grown at the University of Mississippi.

There are still between 4 and 6 people in the program -- the first Bush president shut it down when up to 30 AIDS patients applied, and only the people receiving marijuana at that time were allowed to continue. These people have been smoking more than 10 joints per day of marijuana for decades. Combined, the four have received 584 pounds of marijuana -- shipped to them, and even rolled for them, because the FDA et al. could not provide convincing evidence that there would be negative effects. And that turned out to be true. These folks entered into this program with some pretty serious health problems, but have not faced new ones due to the marijuana -- a study called the Missoula Study was done to prove just that.

None of this is to take away from the excellent points others have made about not getting caught, or being aware of possibilities of damage to a developing mind, and so on, but hopefully this adds a counterpoint to the fear that smoking marijuana guarantees she'll be a burnout. She should probably stay away from it for a few more years at least, but if she doesn't she will probably be fine physically.
posted by Houstonian at 12:33 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some of the people that I know who smoke weed are idiots. Most of the idiots that I know, smoke weed.
Just something that your friend may want to consider.
posted by Dr. ShadowMask at 12:53 PM on December 26, 2011


Some of the people that I know who smoke weed are idiots. Most of the idiots that I know, smoke weed.
Just something that your friend may want to consider.


The plural of anecdote is not data. I'd keep that in mind for all of the personal recollections of high school pot users in this thread (including mine).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:01 PM on December 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


Conversely, I know a remarkable number of high-functioning stoners. Friends who excelled through law school and wrote all their papers high. The drug does different things to different peopleā€”I can't focus for shit when I'm on it and am supremely jealous of those who can.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:57 PM on December 26, 2011


Should I be concerned? Can pot cause any serious problems, mentally or physically? Is there much of anything I can do at this point? We are still in high school too. Thanks for any advice you can give me. I really wish to help this friend.

Whether its harmful or not is a pretty contentious issue - for some people it is, for others it isn't.


Worst case scenario - the best thing is not to enable.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:04 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of the people that I know who smoke weed are idiots. Most of the idiots that I know, smoke weed.

Hmmm? You seem to have stumbled into a far simpler universe than mine. I can't think of a single thing that "most of the idiots" I know have in common ... except perhaps that they pursue a "don't-confuse-me-with-facts-mind-mind-is-made-up" trajectory.
posted by philip-random at 2:09 PM on December 26, 2011


OP, in contrast to many of the comments, I'm gonna give you some facts. You might find the following study, conducted by Australia's National Drug, and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of Sydney interesting: Comparative Appraisal of the Health and Psychological Consequences of Alcohol, Cannabis, Nicotine and Opiate Use.

It is fifteen years old now, but tobacco, alcohol and pot have changed very little in that time, and further research has confirmed rather than contradicted its conclusions (except the respiratory cancer link; that's a bit more up in the air):
    There are health risks of cannabis use, most particularly when it is used daily over a period of years or decades. Considerable uncertainty remains about whether these effects are attributable to cannabis use alone, and about what the quantitative relationship is between frequency, quantity and duration of cannabis use and the risk of experiencing these effects. Using analogies with the known effects of alcohol and tobacco, the most probable of the health risks of chronic heavy cannabis use over a period of years are; the development of a dependence syndrome; an increased risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents; an increased risk of developing chronic bronchitis; an increased risk of respiratory cancers; an increased risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies when used during pregnancy; and perhaps, an increased risk of developing schizophrenia among those who are vulnerable. Many of these risks are shared with alcohol and tobacco, which is not surprising given that cannabis is an intoxicant like alcohol which is typically smoking like tobacco. On existing patterns of use, cannabis poses a much less serious public health problem than is currently posed by alcohol and tobacco in Western societies. This is no cause for complacency, however, as the public health significance of alcohol and tobacco are major, and the public health significance of cannabis could increase if the prevalence of its heavy daily use were to approach that of heavy alcohol use among young adults, or the prevalence of daily cigarette smoking among adults.
For you, the takeout there should be that chronic drug use of any type is going to cause problems in someone's life, and in this respect, cannabis bears very little difference to alcohol and tobacco (except legally). There are many problems associated with chronic use, but I wouldn't worry overmuch about your friend becoming addicted, becoming schizophrenic, becoming chronically bronchial yet, especially if you're not concerned about drinking and smoking. These have high public risks asssociated with them, too; don't let the legality fool you. Those bad things could happen, but a joint on the weekend will not cause them.

Ignore all the stories, please, they are just that.

Despite the anecdotal experience, research is yet to prove a link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Adolescent to mid-twenties is when schizophrenia typically manifests, and there is some evidence to suggest that schizophrenics are attempting to self-medicate. For example, tobacco use is way higher in the schizophrenic population than the general population. Interesting stuff. .
posted by smoke at 2:36 PM on December 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. It should not be necessary to point out that metatalk is the place to air grievances about moderation, but there it is if you need it.]
posted by cortex at 2:49 PM on December 26, 2011


Yellow: You get th effects because when you smoke pot, it blacks or hinders the synapses from occurring.

This is borderline spam. This appalling comment is full of groundless assertions.

Anyway, I would like to echo others in suggesting that you just make sure that pot is not the gateway to something that is actually dangerous. Also, pot should hopefully not take over her life and become some major part of her identity. Occasional, casual use by all accounts seems to present minimal health risks, relative to alcohol anyway. But becoming a stoner is a lifestyle that may seriously hinder her academic or professional success.
posted by stroke_count at 3:21 PM on December 26, 2011


OP, see how there are a bunch of people snapping at each other in an axe-grinding fashion? That's because marijuana is a hot-button issue here and since you don't know the credentials or credibility or personal agenda of the commenters here, you're going to have trouble figuring out who or what to believe ... because even WE can't agree.

This thread exemplifies our earlier suggestion that you should go to an adult you know and trust to talk about your friend's issues, rather than relying on what a lot of anonymous people say here. Some things are too important to trust to anonymous hordes.
posted by jayder at 3:32 PM on December 26, 2011


The problems I've seen come from when experimentation leads into pot becoming a hobby, or even lifestyle.

Southpark explained something I saw in my friends - they described it as pot gives you a way to not feel bored when you're bored, and it's tempting to just smoke it happily, meanwhile other people are instead motivated by boredom to go do stuff.

Doing stuff (instead of not feeling boredom) is a significant chunk of your development and life education, and after a few years, the difference of all those hours spent zoned out becomes noticeable in both the calibre and potential of the person.

It's much the same as the person that spends six hours a day watching soap opera dramas. It's life not fully lived, and as years go by, the initially-subtle trade-offs become more noticeable.

Much like soap operas, there's no harm in a little vice, a bit of experience and worldliness, so long as it doesn't grow. Hedonism is nice in the moment, but only in the moment.

The thing that bothers me is that most people I saw start pot, their interest in it slowly and steadily grew until it consumes their lives. So I think of pot as something with fairly substantial risk, even if those risks are not health risks.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:12 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would link your friend to this comic along with part two -- these have advice which will help her stay out of trouble. There's more good advice here, including tips on how to control the smell (which is often a challenge for teen smokers, who don't tend to have as much privacy.) These links may also help drive home the idea that marijuana use should be treated with care, if only because it's illegal.

As for health and psychological considerations, scientific evidence suggests that marijuana use is less problematic than the use of alcohol. That doesn't mean it's 100% harmless, but it does mean that you don't need to entertain overblown fears of "impairing brain function". In my experience, marijuana is just like everything else in life: what you get out of it is up to you. It can be an enriching part of life or it can be a waste of time (or both -- when you're super-stressed a waste of time can be exactly what you need!) Be careful with regards to the law, be mindful of set and setting, and don't do it all the damn time or to the exclusion or harm of important things or people; this is all most people need to do to keep drug use positive, whether marijuana, alcohol, or otherwise.

If I were you I'd concentrate on being a good friend and making the most of life, and worry about your friend's marijuana use only if it seems to be seriously interfering with that. I suspect that having a close friend who is willing to listen and trust will help in and of itself.
posted by vorfeed at 8:58 PM on December 26, 2011


I think the thing is that some people can treat weed like wine or cigarettes in an appropriate manner (IE, doing it occasionally and for fun and not out of need), and there are others who treat it like people who are addicted to alcohol. For example, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner sometimes when it suits the food, and at most I'll have a glass and a half. It tastes good, and it relaxes me. Same with the occasional craft beer. But I do it less than three times a week in general, and I don't feel the need for the drunkenness. Nor would I drive immediately afterwards, even though it's not that intoxicating. An alcoholic might find himself drinking several servings of alcohol a day (I think 3 or more per day regularly is the rough definition of the beginning signs of a problem), and have impact his ability to function. IE, wastes money on booze, can't perform at work, gets DUIs, etc.

See, even if weed doesn't have a built-in mechanism for dependence (IE withdrawal), people can grow accustomed to the feeling of being high and smoke way too often. Being high is a good feeling, and people often have the impression that they're better at things (which is sometimes true, but not always). For example, you might think you can write essays better while high, but then proofread them sober and see that you were rambling and obtuse when you thought you were being clever. And while you're high, it's hard to motivate yourself to be at your best. You'll feel good, but you won't be as motivated. I don't think Amotivational Syndrome is a real thing (where you somehow are changed by chronic marijuana use so that you can't motivate yourself even when you quit), but I do believe that smoking pot can cause you to be less likely to to get things done while under the influence.

In addition, I think people who smoke weed as their entertainment every day are missing out on the prime of their life in other intangible ways. For example, you could be doing something creative or interesting to develop your mind and grow as a person. For example, when I'm bored, I might practice programming, or cook something, or start a new project or learn a new hobby. If it works out, I'll hang out with friends. I have something to show for it, have some new memories and I developed a bit of work ethic by sticking with something and seeing the result. While weed's not a direct pleasure button for the brain, it makes it very easy to have a lot of fun doing very little. And while that's great short term, you might want to get more out of life later.

Even a person who can use it often and function can be problematic. I have a friend who uses it quite often, and while he's still a good student and often great to be around, it's gotten to the point that his habit is starting to bother people, and it's started to also warp his views on drugs and addiction in general. While he himself does not do hard drugs, he has told others that they're not as big a deal as people say, and that he thinks it's wrong for people who are over an addiction to avoid the substance entirely (as he told a friend who abused Adderall, who then started again based on his advice). And he has a tendency to carry and use in places that could be an issue. For example, my mom is very much against drugs, but he decided to carry when sleeping over at her house, and our neighbor is a detective for the police (he's very much aware of those two facts). First thing he does when my mom leaves is put together his homemade grav bong in the backyard, being blatant as possible. Because he's used to smoking all the time and has never been caught, he thinks this is okay. And whenever we have a conversation, I'm not sure how seriously to take him, as I'm not sure if he's high/how high he is. Smoking often can have social consequences.

For the record, I think the health issues are unclear, and probably somewhere between the extremes proposed by legalization proponents (harmless or mildly beneficial) and the DEA (worse than cigarettes and alcohol). And I do think it should be legal, as it's insane logistically and financially to try to manage a prohibition on a fairly easy to produce drug, and there's no good moral reason in my opinion to prohibit it and put harmless people who possess the drug in jail. (Legality is also a major concern as well, as getting caught can really cause you a lot of problems. Even though it may be illegal for bad reasons, it is still illegal and carries harsh penalties if you get caught. For this reason alone, I don't ever possess marijuana.) But a lot of young people (my age and below) who use the drug tend to act like it's fine to smoke as much as you want as often as you want.

And while we're here, don't get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated by weed. It might not be as bad as alcohol (not enough studies to be conclusive, but that seems to be the case), but it's still pretty bad. And you should be at your best when driving.

Sorry if this was kind of rambling and repetitive compared to what people said before, but I think drugs are something people have to handle carefully. They are a tool that can alter our perceptions for better or for worse, but it's easy to miss the consequences of their use.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:05 PM on December 26, 2011


Eh, I'll do a tl;dr: Aside from the big possibility of getting caught, probably not that many short term consequences. But long term, you might end up with some small problems you'll regret that can grow into big problems unchecked. Like not living up to as much potential as you'd like because you were fooling around while high instead of developing yourself.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:08 PM on December 26, 2011


Convictions for the possession and sale of illegal drugs can disqualify you from receiving financial aid for college.

Here's the question itself on the FAFSA, with guidelines on when to select "yes" or "no".


I wish people would fully read the stuff they're repeating. From the government's own site:
The Higher Education Act of 1965 as amended (HEA) suspends aid eligibility for students who have been convicted under federal or state law of the sale or possession of drugs, if the offense occurred during a period of enrollment for which the student was receiving federal student aid (grants, loans, and/or work-study).
Emphasis mine. Since the kid is still in high school, I'm taking a leap and assuming s/he is not currently receiving federal financial aid.
posted by asciident at 5:10 AM on December 27, 2011


"I think it's useful to understand the two major sides to this issue. The one side is that it's a harmless weed, George Washington grew hemp, it's a drug that tends to not be correlated with violence or other crimes [besides the crimes of having/smoking/growing it] it makes people relaxed and somewhat placid and many many people smoke often, despite the laws about it."

Jessamyn, with respect, the correlation with violence depends very strongly on the source of the pot, which is generally mysterious for obvious reasons. The bulk of pot, especially cheap pot and particularly as far east as Illinois, tends to not be from British Columbia where the business tends to be happy, but from California where volume is dominated by the Mexican Mafia as well as from Mexico itself. Pot provides the backbone of funding for cartels with its high profit margin and low overhead product, the quantities they move and the profits they take are massive. Quality is also not longer anything like a guarantee of non-awful sources as cartels have moved into that market too.

Vanguard had a great special two part series on the Marijuana Wars in California and Mexico, Part 2

Also, The Narco War Next Door about the incalculable damage the industry is doing to our neighbors.

Just because you might never see the violence doesn't mean it isn't there.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:02 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


To clarify: the violence is in the illegality, not the drug itself.

And this applies to British Columbia as well as Mexico. We obviously don't have it as bad as they do, but we have definitely seen an escalation in drug-related violence over the past decade in BC (metro-Vancouver in particular). Yes, it's mostly not explicitly marijuana related, but once you've made anything illegal, it tends to keep really dodgy company.

So again, the best answer to a question regarding the "badness" of marijuana must revolve around its illegality. Be very careful in this regard.
posted by philip-random at 9:20 AM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jessamyn, with respect, the correlation with violence depends very strongly on the source of the pot

With respect, what I meant was alcohol correlates with increased violent tendencies among people consuming alcohol. There are no such correlations among people using marijuana, only a few individual "here are a few people who got high and did violent things" papers. There are other problems around the criminality of marijuana, organized crime and a bunch of other things, but the data strongly suggest that people on pot commit fewer crimes and those crimes are less violent than people "on alcohol" or people taking (many) other illegal drugs. I am not talking about the pot industry I am talking about the effects on individual users.

This question is about a person who is trying to determine what they should do about their friend smoking pot. If you're saying "well they should be aware that they're supporting this problematic cartel weirdness" that's fine, but it's also worth understanding that a lot of statistics on drug-related crime don't break the drugs out individually and when you do, that's what you find. But people who don't have a background it in will associate "drugs" with "crime" and generalize in ways that don't fit the facts. This is common knowledge among legal and law enforcement types out my way but I'll be happy to track down some sources. This one is via NORML but it's not a study done by them, for instance.
posted by jessamyn at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Once you get to that level of abstraction in terms of negative side effects, driving a car is probably worse than buying pot.
posted by empath at 4:26 PM on December 27, 2011


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