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Getting high? Smart kids eventually get it

walt williams

walt williams

By Walt Williams

“I was gonna clean my room until I got high.

I was gonna get up and find the broom but then I got high.

My room is still messed up and I know why,

Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high.”

– Afroman, “Because I got high,” 2001

 

Smart kids get it eventually; pot makes you dumb. Some say it’s no different than what is served in the 26 tasting rooms lining the Plaza, but how can one compare the high of “sour diesel” or “white widow” to a glass of Petroni cab?

Marijuana is my nemesis. I try to make students smarter, pot makes them dumber. I promote responsibility, pot makes students irresponsible. I promote clarity, pot creates haze. I encourage getting outside, eating healthy, connecting with others, pot encourages sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and playing Grand Theft Auto 5.

I have this conversation with many parents: “My son just smokes a little weed, he says it relaxes him and that he never drives or gets in trouble with the law. That’s not a big problem, is it?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” I reply. Used medicinally to increase the appetite of a cancer patient – good. Used to hide from feelings, emotions and responsibilities in the real world – bad.

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, stimulates receptors in your hypothalamus (where appetite is regulated), thus giving you the munchies. THC also causes temporary brain damage by over stimulating the hippocampus (where short term memory and spatial navigation live), which means you go dumb. THC also artificially increases dopamine levels, which makes you feel good, so the next time you are faced with the option of smoking pot, you say yes because you like to feel good.

If you are over 25 (the age when the prefrontal cortex of the brain is fully developed), done with work for the day, you want to relax and you are not in the vicinity of others who will be affected by your smoke, then burn away, celebrate 4:20, eat some food, watch some TV, knock yourself out. Is it any worse for you than a couple of glasses of Petroni cab? Probably not.

But if you are 16, having that same 4:20 experience, numbing out might become your hobby. And pot smoking is not a hobby. Your development slows because you’re too stoned to play baseball or write or fall in love or learn. Worst of all, the THC makes you feel good, and you like to feel good so guess what you want to do more of.

One of my favorite biology words is homeostasis. I use it when talking about how we take care of the earth (currently in the state of Koyaanisqatsi) and the balance of the human body. When you are living the good life, your level of dopamine is consistent and you are happy. You have balance, you like who you are, you actively contribute, you help others, you engage in healthy activities and you are mindful of your place in the world. Without homeostasis, you never feel like things are quite right, something is off; you are having trouble finding your sweet spot. With no way to feel good, you turn to substances to fill the holes.

The answer is to be high all the time by creating a personal homeostasis that is fed with enriching experiences. Write, paint, exercise, contribute, meditate, set goals, learn stuff, say hi to strangers, dance, laugh and wake up every morning with an honest smile on your face.

Not able to do those things? Figure out why not and start moving in a different direction. Do it all at once or taper into it, but once your body gets used to the new balance it will give you the dopamine you desire.

Remember the words of Afroman:

“I messed up my entire life because I got high.

I lost my kids and my wife because I got high.

Now I’m sleeping on the sidewalk and I know why,

Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high.”

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Walt Williams is high all the time because of his work as a teacher at Creekside High School.