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Q&A for Teens: Getting High: A Smokescreen?
Q&A for Teens

Q&A for Teens: Getting High: A Smokescreen?

I'm tempted to smoke marijuana but feel guilty since I know my parents disapprove.


Dear Lauren,

Last week at a party my friend offered me a joint. I've never smoked pot and I'm tempted, but I feel guilty about doing it since I know my parents don't approve. What should I do?

Let’s examine the pros and cons of smoking marijuana. What are the reasons you would want to smoke it? What are the reasons you think you shouldn’t? You say your parents don’t approve. Do you know that for a fact? Have you asked them what their opinion is on the matter, and their reasons for that opinion? By the way, I applaud the fact that you've considered the viewpoint of someone older (and maybe even wiser!) in this decision.

The next question you could ask yourself about getting high is: do you want to float through parts of life on a cloud of ether? Personally, I wouldn’t enjoy getting high or drunk because I find so much satisfaction in being present in my life as I’m living it. I wouldn’t want to miss out on life with myself, my family, my friends, my God, my books, my music by slipping into an alter-version of reality. Even when life is tough or rough or difficult, personally, I wouldn’t want to escape from it by getting high, because when the high wears off, the same issues are there, and I would not have worked on growing through my challenges if I'd just check out. I’d come down from the high in the exact same place as I was before I smoked the joint. In my opinion, that would be a shame, because life is for growing and learning and forging connections with people through being fully present.

Another point to consider is that things are usually not as they seem—I can guarantee that from my work as a therapist; I am honored daily by intimate glimpses into people’s inner lives, and those lives are rarely as exciting, fulfilling, happy, and problem-free as they seem from the outside. People who are high seem to be enjoying themselves, but what is true enjoyment, what is true pleasure? Is checking out true pleasure, or is spending real time, where you’re actually present, with the people and music and books and spiritual experiences that you love true pleasure? Consider this question: the people who seem to be enjoying pot—are they really enjoying the experience? Or are they enjoying escaping their reality for a few moments?

Many pleasures of this world—especially illicit pleasures—are a smokescreen. They seem pleasurable, but they don’t afford you actual, deep, meaningful, lasting pleasure.

Will smoking pot enhance your life, or just give you illusory pleasure?

I do apply the word “illicit” to marijuana, since it is illegal in the United States. Depending on which state you live in, if you are caught smoking or possessing marijuana, you could be fined, sent to jail, or put on probation (which means random drug tests and checking in with a probation officer to make sure you’re not using the drug again), all of which would stay on your permanent record and may make getting in to college or graduate school or finding a job difficult. By the way, because marijuana is illegal, it is also unregulated, which means that you don’t really know what you’re smoking, and poisonous or dangerous compounds could be in the joint you smoke. Quite a lot of damaging possible consequences for an experience you’re not even sure you want to have.

Related Article: Drugs: A Jewish Problem?

Among addiction specialists and mental health experts, marijuana is considered to be the drug which makes people lazy, unmotivated, and willing to settle in their lives for the status quo; it’s the “motivator terminator” drug. Not a pretty title.

From a spiritual point of view, will smoking pot enhance your life, or just give you illusory pleasure? Will it even give you pleasure at all, or just a lot of headaches? What will you gain in your life from getting high, and what might you lose? Also, who will make sure you’re safe, physically and sexually, while your faculties are impaired? Do you want to put yourself into a position where your judgment is hazy?

I challenge you to honestly think about all these question before you decide to light up, and I’m extremely impressed that you took the first step in that direction by writing in and asking me about this issue.

December 24, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 21

(16) Shira Goldstein Brooklyn New York, May 17, 2013 2:50 AM

Thanks so much for all these beautiful articles!

(15) sandra, January 2, 2012 12:02 AM

marijuana causes brain defects

The use of marijuana causes brain defects, such as loss of memory and the inability to find words to express yourself.

(14) Tony, December 29, 2011 11:21 AM

Excellent non judgemental straight talk.

I have been involved in 'helping hurting people' for 20 years, and I can say to this young person you do not 'try' drugs! Starting is easy, the difficult part as any addict will tell you is stopping! Consider the consequences before you take the risk your actions are your responsibility

(13) Simcha Mendel, December 29, 2011 10:24 AM

Stay away from any type of drug including cigarettes!!!

At 52 yrs. of age at the present time and growing up in the '60's and '70's, I never smoked cigarettes, never smoked cigars, never smoked a pipe, never smoked marijuana, never got drunk and never took any other drug aside from prescription medicine and vitamin supplements and I am very proud of it. This is the way I was raised. My parents as well never smoked anything and never got drunk a day in their lives. When I was in ninth grade, I joined a non-religious but Jewish youth movement. I was the youngest in a group amongst 11th graders. It was a wonderful group that was never involved in smoking anything or getting drunk. Then when they graduated from high school, they left the organization and another group of ninth graders joined the organization and I was the oldest in the group. This group of ninth graders smoked marijuana. Instead of G-d forbid following in their footsteps, I spoke to the director of the youth movement about the situation and left the organization because of the problem. I was always very independent in my way of thinking and never followed in the ways of those who did the wrong thing. Thank G-d, this is the way my parents raised me and I am thankful everyday for this upbringing. My suggestion is to have a mind of your own like I did and still do and you will be a much happier person. As a Torah observant Jew today, there are those who try to get me to drink alcoholic beverages on different occasions such as at a kiddush in shule and on other occasions as well. Aside from a couple of sips of alcohol in order to make a "L'Chaim", and wine in order to make kiddush, I simply decline even though there is pressure from others to drink more. Learn from me to be independent and to follow in the footsteps of those who do positive things and NOT negative things and you will be a much happier person.

(12) Anonymous, December 29, 2011 12:53 AM

pot causes anxiety and other psychological problems!

People think they smoke marijuana to feel pleasure and relax, but in fact all pot users know that it frequently causes people to "get paranoid" -- that is, feel irrational anxiety, suspicion and fear. I know people who never had panic attacks, yet had them regularly after smoking marijuana (they must have been predisposed to panic attacks but never had the right stimulus to cause them before). Anxiety is the opposite of happiness! Pot will make you feel worse. So go with the traditional Jewish ways to feel good -- prayer, hitbodedut, fasting, a little wine, friends, family, etc. These are the true ways to happiness, even in the short term.

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