xvi Introduction has ever died from marijuana, but people die all the time from alcohol.” My student was convinced that his conclusions were self-evident and that people were simply ignorant and prejudiced against the drug. He pointed to my flyer and said that there were “a lot of myths about marijuana.” My student was right in one respect—there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about marijuana. All of them can be easily found online written by people who share their experiences and who are personally invested in their drug use. These blog posts rarely talk about the impact their addictions have had on their relationships and school and job per- formance. Like many others, my student’s perceptions on alcohol, mar- ijuana, and addiction were heavily influenced by popular media, which stresses the excitement of experience and avoids the more problematic reality of consequences. The birth of social media in the first decade of the 2000s ushered in a major shift in public opinion on marijuana specifically and on recre- ational drug use in general. Thirty years ago, public service announce- ments ran on most youth-themed programs with the message “Just say no” to drugs and alcohol, and now in the 2020s, the more common message is “Just do it.” A simple internet search for “Where to buy marijuana?” can turn up more than 2.1 billion results, whereas a simple search for “Is marijuana bad for you?” results in 1/20th as many hits. The information online is certainly not balanced, and there are far more blogs and private sites marketing and promoting marijuana than there are those that stress the dangers of the drug. Social media and the internet are only partially responsible for the noticeable shift in opinion on drug use, but the rapid increase in tech- nological dependency has also contributed to our cultural habits. Addic- tions of all kinds have become more common at all levels of society, and health care professionals are becoming increasingly aware of just how widespread the problem extends—not only for teens and young adults but also for parents and grandparents. Alcohol, gambling, and drug use were obvious sources of addiction in the past, but today modern addic- tions include pornography, video games, social media, online shopping, and even obsessively consuming news media. Recently, we have become so reliant on digital technology that it can determine our daily routines, exaggerate our personal insecurities, and lead to widely fluctuating emo- tional reactions. Digital-based addictions show clearly that addiction does not require chemical dependency to be harmful to individual well-being. As rates of depression, schizophrenia, and other forms of mental and emo- tional illnesses rise, including rates of suicide, the need for more balanced information about the risks of addiction also rises.
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