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The Marijuana Attack on Learning

Wednesday, December 1, 2010, 0:01
This news item was posted in Education category.
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Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States. One of the problems underlying much of the underachievement in American secondary education is the drug problem—a big problem, too big to address in a short article. So I’m going to just address one drug, marijuana, and suggest that one of the reasons for the marijuana epidemic in our land is that it has become a substitute to fill in the spiritual vacuum left by the attempts to remove the Judeo-Christian religious influences in public education.

Dr. Robert L. Dupont, MD, who served from 1973-75 as the White House Drug Chief observed that:  ”In 1962 only one percent of Americans aged twelve to seventeen had ever smoked marijuana; by 1982 the figure was twenty-seven percent…Among the eighteen to twenty-five year-olds, only four percent had used marijuana in 1962; but by 1983, sixty-four percent had used it (Getting Tough on Gateway Drugs-p. 64 ).   There was a decline in the use in the late 1990s, but since that time changes in attitudes and beliefs have driven the use up much more. I would suggest it is possible that the increased use of marijuana has been strongly influenced by the spiritual void left by subtracting God and prayer from our public schools!

It is an interesting observation to see that one among many of the great problems confronting American Public Education began when prayer and Bible reading were removed from our public schools in 1958 and implemented in the early 1960s.  From this time we can particularly observe the increased consumption of marijuana by teens and young adults in America. Marijuana, which comes from the female Cannabis plant, has an ancient history of ritual usage as an aid to trance and has been traditionally used in a religious context throughout ancient history. 

Marijuana, which thrives in hot, arid climates, has a long history of use in the Muslim and Hindu world, often for religious purposes. Cannabis or ganja is associated with worship of the Hindu deity Shiva.  In fact, Marijuana is mentioned in Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Ayurveda and many other ancient Hindu texts!

Although Islam strongly speaks against intoxication, according to one legend, Haydar, the Persian monk who founded the Sufi Islamic order, discovered marijuana in 1155 AD and shared it with his followers.  They believed it brought direct communion with God, using cannabis as a sacrament. The Quran also mentions a “Heaven Flower” in Sura Ar-Rahman (the “scented herb” in Ayah no 12) and Sura Al-Waqiah (Ayah no 89) and a mythical Lote Tree. 

The oldest texts of traditional Chinese medicine listed herbal uses for cannabis and noted some psychodynamic effects. Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica” described the use of mafen “cannabis fruit/seeds”, that “To take much makes people see demons and throw themselves about like maniacs. The ancient dietary therapy book, Shiliao bencao, (“Nutritional Materia Medica”) prescribes daily consumption of cannabis, “those who wish to see demons should take it (with certain other drugs) for up to a hundred days.”

Ancient Chinese Taoists were at first skeptical about the use of cannabis; their religion regarded it as “the liberator of sin” for some time. However, while they continued to condemn the hallucinations brought on through excessive use (which they regarded as leading to “seeing devils”), by the first century AD the followers of this religion used marijuana seeds in their incense burners while meditating, believing that the milder effects of the drug gave them a heightened spiritual awareness.

In the first commentaries to the Shangqing canon, it says, “Hemp-seeds are very little used in medicine, but the magician-technicians (shujia say that if one consumes them with ginseng it will give one preternatural knowledge of events in the future.” A 6th-century AD Taoist medical work, the Wuzangjing (“Five Viscera Classic”) says, “If you wish to command demonic apparitions to present themselves you should constantly eat the inflorescences of the hemp plant.”  (Wikipedia—“ Religious and spiritual use of cannabis”)

Yes, marijuana has and is used for religious purposes, but among many characteristics about its use it that it has long been known to cause problems with learning and memory. Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York have identified the mechanism by which marijuana may affect activity in the hippocampus, the portion of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Dr. Castillo of Yeshiva University notes that when cannabinoids are introduced from outside the body through marijuana use, they serve to short circuit the internal system and impair synaptic plasticity in particular, thereby interfering with the way neurons signal one another, gather information, and store it.  He said, “When a person smokes marijuana, an outside signal triggered by the THC is received in the brain.” And he went on to say: “But at the same time, the brain’s naturally occurring cannabinoids are also sending messages via neuronal synapses. These conflicting cannabinoid-triggered signals create confusion, interfering with normal brain function, synaptic plasticity and, ultimately, with the ability to learn”  (The Medical News, September 2004).

Historically it has often been used both for medicinal purposes and for spiritual purposes. In its unburned state it has over 400 separate chemicals, 60 of which are unique to  marijuana, and that produces more than 2,000 when burned.  The medicinal value, however, fades when one sees what it does to ones mind.  Marijuana is deluding, and it short-circuits learning!

Marijuana without question hinders a teen’s ability to learn, and heavy use impairs the  ability to concentrate and retain information, especially problematic during peak learning years. It is linked to poorer grades, as a teen with a “D” average is four times more likely to have used marijuana than a teen with an “A” average.  Marijuana and underage drinking are linked to higher dropout rates. Students who drink or use drugs frequently are up to five times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school.  A teenage marijuana user’s odds of dropping out are more than twice that of a non-user.  Teens who begin marijuana use at an early age when the brain is still developing may be more vulnerable to neuropsychological deficits, especially verbal abilities.  It can be observed that teens who are regular marijuana users often have short attention spans, decreased energy and ambition, poor judgment, impaired communications skills and diminished effectiveness in social situations — a set of problems called an “amotivational syndrome” by scientists.  (About.com: Teen Advice, March 5-07).

 

Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette (joint) or in a pipe. It is also smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. This mode of delivery combines marijuana’s active ingredients with nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Marijuana can also be mixed in food or brewed as a tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form, it is called hashish; and as a sticky black liquid, hash oil.

THC, the active mind altering substance in marijuana, acts upon specific sites in the brain called cannabinoid receptors, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the “high” that users experience when they smoke marijuana.  The deta-9 THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is soluble in fat, but not in water, and so it is retained in the body much longer than other substances.  Plus, some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors, while others have few or none. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrating, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.  

Marijuana use takes a person out of his or her right mind, and thus it becomes a problem in learning.  It does not kill brain cells as many other drugs do, but without doubt it is a major problem in the education of our youth.  II Timothy 1:7—“ For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  The Christian focus should be to see the dangers, and instill in our youth a true fear of the use, for even if does not necessarily kill brain cells, it cultivates lack of discipline and the inability to fully use one’s mind, destroys motivation, and can lead to most stupid behavior.  It can cultivate the spirit of fear, for often the effect is paranoia.  It leads to weakness as responses are greatly slowed down, and the type of love it cultivates is not a discerning love at all.  Above all it contradicts the whole idea of a “sound mind.”

It says in Proverbs 3:19-21 that “The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established? the heavens. ?By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew. ?My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:”  Seeing God in the educational process is vital.  Christian parents are called to let their children know about the dangers of marijuana use, not only in loss of learning potential in time lost under marijuana exposure, but the many other adverse effects that are not mentioned in this article.  Could not one of the reasons many young students are turning to marijuana and other drugs be the subtraction of God from our educational curriculums?  Marijuana is just one counterfeit that Satan is using to destroy the academic achievement of many.  There is the marijuana attack on learning!

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by Joe Renfro, Ed.D., Radio Evangelist, Retired Teacher and Pastor, Box 751, Lavonia, Georgia 30553, 706-356-4173,  joerenfro@windstream.net
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