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Dr. Howard Samuels

Dr. Howard Samuels

Posted: October 12, 2010 01:14 PM

Legally Loaded: Marijuana Today -- Cocaine and Heroin Tomorrow?


As a father of three children -- Cooper 9, Greer 6, and Chase 3 -- I'm faced with the dilemma of discussing with them how marijuana is as safe as aspirin when they turn 18 years old. If Proposition 19 passes, the state of California is telling me that it's okay for my children to get loaded on drugs as often as once a week or every day and all day.

We are only a little over a month away from voting on whether to legalize pot for the so-called medical benefits and to relieve the government of enforcing marijuana laws. That's what those in favor of decriminalizing marijuana would have you believe. The real message is that we are normalizing the drug and alcohol crisis in a big way and sending a message to our children that marijuana is as safe to smoke as taking aspirin and brushing our teeth with toothpaste if it is made legal.

Meanwhile, a government study released last week reports the rate of illegal drug use has risen in this country to the highest level in a nearly a decade. The usual narcotic suspects fueling the sharp increase are methamphetamine, ecstasy, and of course, pot.

More than half of all fatal highway crashes involving two or more cars are alcohol related. 250,000 people have died in alcohol related accidents in the past 10 years with 2 million injured in alcohol-related driving collisions occurring each year. And, let's not bury the headline: "Alcohol related crashes are the leading cause of death for young Americans!"

That's what ending prohibition did for us. I am not against social drinking. For those who are not alcoholics, a glass of wine with your pasta is alright by me, but don't tell me that you smoke pot for the taste. The only reason people smoke weed is to get loaded. By legalizing we are perpetuating a drug-oriented culture. We may as well add to "Drink responsibly ... and medicate as needed..."

We are sending the wrong message to our young people when we casually refer to marijuana as medicine. I can tell you from my front row seat as a addiction treatment professional -- the prescribing of marijuana is not as much about people who need it for terminal-illness, medicinal-relief, but convenience on the part of our kids abusing weed. I have clients at 16, 17, 18 and up who are buying pot from clinics as easily as using an ATM card to buy a pack of cigarettes at a gas station.

It's horrifying to me to watch our nation go up in a haze of herb smoke. It's denial that our young people are free from the self-destruction brought on by the easy access which will come from making pot legal.

What's more, medical marijuana is many times more potent and toxic than the weed bought off pot dealers.

As for street bought drugs, destroying the drug cartels is laughable. Drug king pins do not make their money off marijuana.

While a very minute segment of the population smokes a joint on the weekends a couple of times a month, the majority -- the real mainstream smokers are inhaling four or five times a week and several times a day.

Marijuana -- more often than not -- is a gateway drug and the danger is legalizing it will make it more acceptable, which invariably leads to trying other drugs. Believe me, a pot high for an addict who is looking to numb themselves will eventually become blase and boring and the chase will be on for some other 'recreational' drugs. Where does all this end?

As a treatment professional, I rely on the police and courts to help treat the addict/alcoholic through enforcement of laws which actually protect the abuser still in denial of their disease by forcing them to look at their issues with consequences. Once the handcuffs are 'off' the pot smoker, we are in for major, major trouble with our kids.

In my practice I see daily the devastation of prolonged marijuana use. There is a marked decrease in motivation, tendency to isolate, huge relationship issues and severe anger and anxiety attacks.

California legislators will be looking at funding treatment centers for the state's hundreds of thousands of adolescents and young people whose lives will be seriously damaged by legalizing marijuana.

If Americans accept marijuana as normal then we can expect even more crimes associated with other drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin -- and we can also be assured of behavior issues and exorbitant increases in multiple addictions by our young people. We must ask ourselves: Where do we draw the line legalizing narcotics?

All I can tell you is that as a father, I am concerned about Cooper, Greer and Chase. Will turning 18 allow my children the legal right to not only buy marijuana, but cocaine and heroin as well? As a nation, are we headed towards the next generation as a generation that is legally loaded?