Under the Influence

By: Alan Kagan

One evening, you’re sitting at home with your son or daughter watching TV and they flip the channel in search of a good movie. The first film you see features a couple of stoners who awake with no memory of the night before, and one ask’s the other, “dude where’s my car”. Not amused, you decide to take control of the remote from your child and change the channel. The next movie you find shows a couple of stoners running from drug dealers who are trying to kill them because they witnessed a murder. Your teen says to you, “why are you changing the channel, that’s Seth Rogen and he’s funny!” Frustrated, you change the channel again.

Ahhhh sports, good ol’ ESPN, with wholesome athletes my teen may strive to emulate, you say to yourself. This will get their mind off weed

The headline on the sports show reads as follows, “Nets' D'Angelo Russell cited for marijuana possession in checked bag at LaGuardia airport”.

Has the whole world gone crazy? Everywhere I look I see marijuana!

No, you are not crazy, nor is the world. It’s just changing, and if you do not keep up with the times, you will most certainly get left behind. The following blog entry is not to force you to agree or disagree, but if anything, to urge you to stay informed. Between social media, music, movies, television shows, and sports, today’s youth seem to be under a constant barrage of imagery and influence to smoke and drink.

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According to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, “90% of teens are initially exposed to pictures of their peers drinking, using drugs or passing out on social media before they reach the age of 15 years old. Those same teens who are exposed to these types of pictures are 3xs likelier to consume alcohol, and it’s 4xs as likely that they’ll use marijuana”.

In regard to the music industry, it is no different. Addictioncenter.com states “teenagers who listen to music about marijuana are at a greater risk of marijuana use. A recent study of 9th graders confirms this theory, especially the impressionability of younger listeners”. With so many bands and musicians singing about their ups and downs in life and the impact of substance use, its easy to see how young teens could be influenced to follow in their favorite artists footsteps (good or bad).

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Movies like “Superbad”, “Pineapple Express”, and “The Wolf of Wall Street”, though produced to entertain, show their drug abusing characters in either humorous or successful roles without revealing the addiction or health affecting consequences.

As mentioned earlier, even the sports world is becoming increasingly flooded with stories of drug abuse, whether it be an arrest for marijuana possession, or a star player suspended for violating their leagues PED (performance enhancing drug) policy. Players use for a variety of reasons, possibly to better handle mental health issues, or because they feel they need to live up to the hype of a large contract so they think steroids will help. For the casual reader, they may be unaware of the reasons a player used.

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With alcohol and marijuana usage so prevalent in the media overall, it may feel as though drug use is normalized in society today. So, what is the best course of action? How do I prevent my teen from making bad choices when they are all around us?

Read, research, stay informed, use social media to your advantage. Check out current drug trends, talk to other parents, talk to friends, talk to teachers, and most importantly talk to your children. Be honest and open with them. Isn’t it better they hear the whole truth from you first before they hear the “half-truth” from someone else?

The Southwest Council is an agency that strives to educate and spread awareness to both youth and adults regarding substance use and abuse.  You can find representatives of the Southwest Council in schools providing evidence-based prevention curricula to all grade levels, or within the community working alongside community members for various events.  If you’d like to know more about what the Southwest Council can provide for you and your family, please contact us at (856)-794-1011 or visit us online at http://www.southwestcouncil.org .