Pubdate: Thu, 26 Mar 2015
Source: Witness, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2015 The Witness.
Author: Jarrod Cronje
Note: Jarrod Cronje is an addiction recovery coach at Harmony 
Retreat, Greytown. He is passionate about treatment in the addicted 
community as well as the development of preventative education among youth.
Page: 9


It Slowly Destroys Your Ability to Think Clearly and Is the Primary 
Gateway Drug to Full-Blown Narcotic Dependence

BLANKETED by the still, dark hours of early morning, the radiance of 
the rising sun gifts me, at that precise moment, something so 
considerably beautiful that I find myself stunned momentarily, with 
frozen gaze, at the splendour of God's creation.

My orientation to time dwells neither on the past nor distresses 
about the future. Instead, I am anchored in the here and now, 
completely at ease with the present. There are no distractions, no 
excuses, only reality. This is the most honest part of the day, where 
at the precise moment that the sun peaks above the horizon, I 
experience an opportunity to express my thoughts with absolute 
lucidity. Ironically, when I was in active addiction, this was the 
worst part of the day - dawn brought with it an intense fear and 
anxiety, clouded and obscured by the sickening hum of morning traffic 
and the nasty chatter of birds. Being present was exactly where I did 
not want to be.

I'm so glad those days are over and as I pen these words this 
beautiful morning, I am thankful for the clarity I now feel.

Speaking of clarity, I have been inundated with calls from concerned 
parents whose children have been caught smoking dagga. The 
surprisingly common thread running through each inquiry is that the 
parents are being challenged by their children on the perils of dagga 
and they don't know how to argue in mitigation of its dangers. Some 
of the common responses from young dagga smokers are: "it's a natural 
weed", or "it's helping cancer patients", or "America is legalising 
it", or "nobody has ever overdosed on weed", or "it helps me to relax".

They are not lying either. Each one of those statements is correct as 
it stands but they are fundamentally biased and only contain 
halftruths. The reality of the dangers of street marijuana on a 
person's mental capacity and particularly their brain development are 
quietly devastating an entire generation.

This is the truth about street marijuana: the main psychoactive 
ingredient in dagga is THC (tetrahydrocannibinol), a powerful 
hallucinogen with serious addictive and dependence properties. Twenty 
years ago, THC levels in weed were one percent. Today, they are nine 
percent. That's a 900% increase. THC stays in the body for up to 28 
days. Narcotics such as cocaine or crystal meth are flushed out 
within a few days. Sure it's a weed and grows naturally, but so are 
the deadly nightshade, poison ivy, malpitte, opium (heroin) and coca 
(cocaine) plants. Being natural does not mean it is healthy.

Yes, it is in some cases being successfully administered to cancer 
patients and others with chronic illnesses. I have no problem with 
that because it's being medically controlled for a very specific and 
normally unique condition. In these cases the "medical marijuana" is 
manufactured to contain the right amount of THC for each case. 
Debates still rage about its validity as a medicine though.

The question you need to ask yourself is: "Am I using it 
recreationally or because I am in severe pain from a debilitating 
disease?" Would you just chomp away at someone else's prescription 
for Ritalin or Valium for the sake of fun? Of course not, only an 
addict would do that. In saying that, for those with a predisposition 
for addiction, dagga is the primary gateway drug to full--blown 
narcotic dependence. There is not one addict I know who didn't start 
using narcotics without dagga or alcohol as their introduction to the 
world of drugs. One's brain does not differentiate between dagga and 
cocaine, for example, but rather, it impacts the very same addictive 
neurological pathway that has been created through addiction.

Dagga is the most widely used drug in South Africa, and guess what? 
We are ranked number one in the world for dagga usage. More and more 
cases of dagga psychosis and schizophrenia are being reported too. 
Recently, a doctor at the Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital said that 
at times she has had up to 60% of the patients there being treated 
for dagga psychosis. Most of these patients will never lead a normal 
life again. They will never come back to normality and are 
permanently institutionalised.

Even if a smoker never moves into a psychotic state, prolonged use 
definitely slows normal brain function, causing a general apathy and 
laziness towards life. That's why people say it relaxes them. Yes, it 
does. It relaxes the brain to the point where eventually, just like 
alcohol, basic functionality slows down. If you need weed to relax, 
there is a fundamental problem with your ability to handle everyday 
life in a normal frame of mind and under normal circumstances.

If you can't relax without drinking or smoking, you need to question 
your coping mechanisms. Issues that are "resolved" through smoking 
are not being resolved at all, leading to emotional immaturity and 
anxiety when presented with new challenges in life.

But the issue that gets to me more than anything else, is that dagga 
usage among teenagers has a direct impact on their neurological 
development and performance.

There is a direct link between the increased use of dagga in teens 
and the decreased level of performance and poor attitude towards life 
and education.

If you have dreams, aspirations and success in mind but also use 
dagga, think very carefully about it. Chances are, the use of dagga 
will interfere directly with those goals. Make decisions from a point 
of clarity, not under a cloudy haze of dagga smoke.

So, to those youngsters using dagga, take some time out to educate 
yourself before the weed takes over your ability to educate yourself.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom