Would you like to play poker on Tuesday? Do you have twenty dollars?
Answer the second question first. Because if you don’t have twenty dollars, it doesn’t matter whether you would like to join our friendly game.
One of my running buddies taught me this important paradigm when discussing the “call to action.” In my recent newsletter about gambling and substance use disorder, there was no specific advice he said. Effective writing challenges and changes the reader. What do you want people to do? What is the takeaway? What is their next step?
So let me be explicit regarding your kids and marijuana: Nothing else matters isn’t too strong. Nothing else matters as much doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. If you have adolescent children in 2022, your primary responsibility is to ensure that they don't use marijuana. It's that simple.
This advice isn't about adults; it's not about Reefer Madness; it's not about pot from half a century ago that was 2% THC. This is about now.
I visited detox, rehabilitation, and sober living facilities in South Carolina last month. Here’s what I learned:
- Marijuana laced with fentanyl is ubiquitous. Kids are dying from overdoses.
- Fentanyl is harder to kick than heroin. And detoxing from heroin is misery personified. Those suffering from substance use disorder desperately crave heroin after several hours. Those suffering from substance use disorder desperately crave fentanyl after sixty minutes.
- The new meth is everywhere, inexpensive, readily available, and deadly.
- Xylazine, an animal tranquilizer, has been found in 31 percent of overdose deaths in the Philadelphia area—up from two percent ten years ago.
An emergency room physician mentioned that he treated an adolescent who was bleeding from his eyeballs. The young person had smoked pot laced with rat poison. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: I hope your kid ends up in the ER bleeding from their eyeballs because they smoked pot laced with rat poison. Because if your children smoke pot laced with fentanyl they can overdose and die. At least if they smoke pot only laced with rat poison, they can be treated and likely survive. Visually impaired is better than dead.
Again, I’m not a politician, I’m not a finance guy, I don’t pretend to know accounting. I don’t have an informed opinion regarding:
- Should adults smoke pot?
- Should pot be legal?
- Have we lost the drug war?
- Is pot contributing to infrastructure through tax revenue?
I don’t know if adults should use pot. But I know for certain that kids should not. You have to pay extra to rent a car before age 25. Because your cerebral cortex isn’t fully developed. Car rental companies know that young adults frequently have poor judgment. You and I know that kids shouldn’t use pot. Kids don’t have the judgment to “use in moderation.” Kids aren’t savvy enough not to use and get in cars. Having imperfect, under-developed judgment is the definition of being a kid.
We know our kids are going to smoke pot, so we let them do it at home. If I had a nickel for every time I have heard this tripe from well-meaning parents, I could retire to the South Seas. We know our kids are going to smoke pot, so we let them do it at home is the worst possible advice. It was bad advice 25 years ago; it's deadly advice today.
Would you recommend that your kids have underage, dangerous, unprotected, non-consensual sex with multiple partners because they’re going to want to do it anyway? Of course not. You’re the parent. You’re the moral compass. You are the rock of the family. Your behavior is the foundation on which your children will base their beliefs and insights. You want your kids to be physically intimate—that’s how you get grandchildren—but you don’t want them having underage, dangerous, unprotected, non-consensual sex with multiple partners. Duh.
So here’s what to do to maximize that your children will not end up dead in an alley having graduated from pot to heroin to fentanyl. (And I am well aware that most pot users don’t go on to take heroin. But I also know that almost all heroin users started out using pot.) Make marijuana use the only non-negotiable, unequivocal, unarguable rule in the house. Let everything else go.
Nobody ever died from a C in algebra; nobody ever went to the ER with blood coming out of their eyes because of a C in algebra; nobody every overdosed in an alley because of a C in algebra. Let it go.
Nobody ever died from having a messy room; nobody ever ended up in the ER with blood coming out of their eyes because of a messy room; nobody ever overdosed in an alley because of a messy room. Let it go.
Nobody ever died spending too much time in front of screens; nobody ever went to the ER with blood coming out of their eyes because of spending too much time in front of screens; nobody every overdosed in an alley because of spending too much time in front of screens. Let it go.
I hope your kids will do well in algebra. I hope they tidy their rooms. Long-time readers know how much I prefer the hiking in the great outdoors to playing violent video games inside. I hope you and your kids will enjoy one another’s company and that they will want to hang out with you, help mow the lawn and empty the dishwasher. I hope you will connect with your kids, that they will feel comfortable telling you important stuff, and that you will lay the foundation for a positive productive relationship for the rest of your life.
But they can’t use pot. That’s your call to action. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that they don’t. Because nothing else is nearly as important.