Cheech, Chong and Gone!
Remember Cheech and Chong and their druggie comic rendering of late 1970’s and 80’s drug culture? Their routines of two drug addled pals bumping a bewildered path through life were common fare in campus dorm rooms. Their 1979 film “Up in Smoke” was followed by the comedy album, “Let’s Make a Dope Deal”. Plenty of laughs, yucks and dollars to be made.
But you know what’s really funny about Cheech and Chong? Their oeuvre has been tragically misunderstood. Their work is more documentary than comedy. It’s clear to anyone who has spent any amount of time trying to teach or just communicate with substance abusing teens or young adults.
While Cheech and Chong were not on the agenda of the University of Wisconsin’s recent “Boys and Girls at Risk” national conference, I couldn’t help thinking about the dazed duo and their druggie comedy shtick.
The conference keynote speaker was University of San Diego – California researcher Susan Tapert Ph.D., who has done extensive research on the brain functioning – or misfiring – of adolescent substance users. Much of her research has been on the two most commonly used teen drugs – alcohol and marijuana. Using detailed, systematic computer analysis of MRI brain imagery Tapert and her colleagues get a literal peek inside the skulls of both drug using and non-using adolescents.
Here are a few highlights from Tapert’s research for kids, parents and teachers to consider:
- While marijuana smokers are capable of learning new information, on average they need more hand-holding to do so. In one study it was shown cannabis smokers required an average of five repetitions of the same material before they got it locked away in memory. In a chaotic or fast paced classroom or work situation the availability of such babysitting is non-existent and helps explain why regular pot smokers soon lag behind peers at both school and work.
- In a review of performance testing substance abusing teens scored a full ten percent lower than non-using test subjects. Ten percent is the difference between an A and B or passing and failing. It’s not uncommon among the substance using teens I work with to see GPA drops of two or more grade levels in as little as a semester of substance use.
- Among both alcohol and pot using teens MRI scans record significant decreases in brain white matter, which is the brain substance that assures rapid synaptic firing of neurons and optimal brain efficiency. A significant clue, I’m guessing, to explain Cheech Marin’s hilariously lame problem solving skills.
- The more boys abuse alcohol the more susceptible they are to liquor advertising. On brain scans researchers report the brains of such boys literally “light up” when viewing such advertising. Through exposure to liquor the brain becomes trained to be more responsive to liquor advertising which increases liquor abuse which makes the ads more effective, yada, yada. By the way, the single more recognized advertising characters among American children are the Budweiser Bull Frogs. Here’s to you, BudThere is growing clinical research showing cannabis is both physically addictive and there is a link between pot use and schizophrenia, especially if there is family history of the disorder.
- Alcoholic hangover is increasingly shown to be a significant threshold for lowered brain function. While that may not seem a big news flash, what is news is that just a few such incidents can lead to brain impairment. This is especially true with girls. Oh, and by the way, there is now little significant difference in drinking levels between boys and girls. Way to go Wisconsin Tavern League!
The take-away message from all this research is that substance abuse assaults kids on multiple levels at the same time, resulting in high risk and actual consequences across the full spectrum of their lives. I see the evidence of that every day in my counseling practice. Teachers experience the same thing. I recently read that Cheech and Chong are thinking of coming out of retirement to make a new movie, “Grumpy Old Stoners”. They’re not the only one feeling kind of grumpy.
Mark L. Taylor MA LPC SAC is a Wisconsin licensed counselor who works extensively with adolescents and their families. He also founded the RoundRiver Institute LLC, a learning center near Genoa, WI. Permission is granted for personal use of this material. If you pass it on to other individuals please include a link back to this page. If you wish to use it in a newsletter or publication please contact Mark at: http://www.round-river2000.com
© Mark L. Taylor and RoundRiver Institute LLC