Our president recently said marijuana is no worse than alcohol. Studies released since his statement show he is wrong. However, leprosy is no worse that cancer. Is good or bad, right or wrong simply a matter of comparison?
In an unscientific way, Satchel Page, the legendary baseball pitcher, may have explained a lack of motivation. He opined, “You gotta get the juices jangling.” He likely never heard the word “dopamine,” but research now shows it is a “juice” essential to the brain of motivated people.
Researchers in the United Kingdom reported in the June 29, 2013, issue of “Biological Research” using positron emission tomography to measure the distribution of chemicals throughout the brain. They found that long-term smoking of cannabis, marijuana, results in the brain producing less dopamine, a “feel good” chemical associated with motivation and reward-driven behavior.
Their study showed persons who smoke marijuana often and those who started smoking it at a young age had a lower level of dopamine in the part of the brain called the stratum. Lower levels of dopamine have been shown to contribute to lethargy and indifference.
I watched this influence on two cultures. We visited the Arab section of old Jerusalem shortly after the Six Day War. Young Arabs were dynamic, highly motivated. Their country had lost the territory in which they lived. They were energetic and highly motivated to once more take back the area. Drugs were introduced on a broad scale in the communities where these young aspiring revolutionaries lived. Over a very few years we observed their zeal quelled and these same young men become indifferent, lackadaisical.
The second culture was Bermuda. Our first of several visits to this traditionally friendly beautiful land validated their reputation for warmth and openness. Public transportation by bus and boat are the norm there. Like all Bermudans, when youth got on the bus, they would smile and greet people. It wasn’t uncommon to hear a young person with a big smile say upon getting on the bus, “Hi, everyone.” They would engage tourists in conversation and showed great respect for their elders.
Over the years, we observed the culture become distraught over the introduction of drugs on a broad scale. The youth became quiet, even sullen and unfriendly. Youth no longer made eye contact with passengers upon entering the busses. They lacked motivation. Native adults got little respect.
Another side effect of chronic use of marijuana often triggers inflammation of the brain which affects coordination and learning. Yet, another affect is chronic users tend toward schizophrenia.
The juices no longer jangled in these segments of two societies. Both are labs showing the impact of a lack of dopamine. That being true why would any culture promote the legalization of the product that reduces motivation.
The reason given is legalization would bring in money for the government. At what cost? How many young bright minds that, properly motivated, can produce more revenue by being motivated would be clouded? It is a short-sighted society that does not do everything possible to keep the juices jangling and provide every safeguard possible against that which demotivates its citizens.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.