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“Which would I rather my children use — alcohol or marijuana?”

March 2nd, 2016

I get asked this question in my office so often and if I am being real, I have wondered the same thing about my own teen aged daughters.  Marijuana is clearly not new to high schools but it’s abundance, the prolific ease of it’s distribution, and the casual attitudes around it’s use, especially here in Colorado, make it a question that must be considered.  Obviously all teens are not drug users but, if you’re being honest with yourself, you know that the opportunity for your child to be presented with this choice at some point during adolescence is pretty much a guarantee.

I can feel eyes rolling and hear daggers whizzing by my head from the parents who all have amazing children that would never try drugs of any kind. I can also feel the pain of parents who have had a child affected by alcohol and/ or marijuana use. This conversation is not about permission to use or justification but more about dealing with the reality that families are facing every day, all around the country. We’d all like to live in a world where our kids were safe and protected from these things. Unfortunately, that world is not a reality for a lot of families. It is the attempt to live in that world that is allowing marijuana and alcohol and now heroin to be the top three trending drugs in high schools across America. I think we all agree that recreational marijuana is bad for kids but how does it stack up to alcohol use from a safety perspective?

If I think back to my own teendom, lack of supervision and a wild hair led me make choices around alcohol that not only put me at risk but also further encouraged my bad decision making.  Many of us admit to sneaking booze out of the parents liquor cabinet when we were kids but I rarely came across marijuana. I know it was out there but in 1987, the “druggies” were still just a small group of kids hanging out on the other side of the black top.

The druggies now include the jocks and cheerleaders; the nerds and the band.  Marijuana use is widely accepted across all teen demographics and, according to my girls, is fast becoming more popular than alcohol.  There are strains of marijuana that do not cause the “munchies” so girls are reaching for these options in an effort to control calories.  Vodka has a lot of calories.  And yes, that’s what they like to drink….or “whatever”.

By “whatever”, I mean that our crafty teenagers are using vodka soaked tampons (girls AND boys), vodka eye drops, vodka infused humidifiers, etc. in an attempt to indirectly ingest alcohol.  This means of ingestion is highly risky due to the fact that large amounts of alcohol are being absorbed across the mucous membranes of the eyes, vagina, anus and lungs. The body’s natural defense mechanism is unable to operate as vomiting is not an option to rid the body of the excess alcohol. Of course, this can result is extreme intoxication, alcohol poisoning and even death.

So with that being said, say marijuana is the alternative choice your child is faced with. Of course, NO, is the right answer…but kids are kids, we’ve already established that. Allen E. Carroll is a Professor of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. He wrote an article last year the ended like this: “When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.” In it, he outlines the “would you rathers” and creates a compelling conversation.  This very interesting read from the New York Times certainly addresses the issue from both a Parent and Pediatrician’s perspective. Click the link below to be directed to the NY Times story.

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question