Drugs Are Not Coping Mechanisms

As a long time J. Cole fan since the Warm Up and the Come Up, the release of his most recent album reminded me as to why I fell in love with the North Carolina rapper in the first place. His thought-provoking album artwork provided a true representation of an issue that has long been swept under the rug because it primarily impacted communities of color. Now that drug use and abuse have crept outside of communities of color, it has grabbed the attention of state officials and the general public within the United States.

One track, in particular, grabbed my attention titled "FRIENDS", directly addressed the issue of drug use as a coping mechanism. For many years I personally attempted to explain to others why regular marijuana use and alcohol use was walking a fine line between hobby and addiction, but now with artists like J. Cole and my own research in healthy coping methods I'm able to articulate my concern in a manner that I hope can reach those that are walking that thin line.

The first thing I would like to say is that I am not writing to demonize marijuana. As a matter of fact, I believe that if properly used marijuana is more effective and presents fewer side effects than many of our pharmaceutical options. Beyond my beliefs, there has been a multitude of research that supports these claims. Consider that "opioid-related hospitalizations have shown to drop significantly in states after the passing of medical marijuana laws", according to Dr. Yuyan Shi of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. However, in terms of using marijuana to treat mental illnesses, studies have shown to be inconclusive.

Conversely, I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and can lead a younger, more malleable mind to try more dangerous drugs such as cocaine, syrup, and heroin. Consider for a moment that the average age of heroin addicts in treatment is twenty-three, according to The Recovery Village. Chances are, these twenty-thre-year-olds did not wake up one day planning to try heroin, but first tried a little marijuana, then cocaine, and finally heroin. In other words, if an individual is using marijuana as a coping method we should treat it as seriously as if it is heroin with the expectation that it could be heroin one day if the high of marijuana is not powerful enough to help that person cope. I also want us to consider alcohol as another gateway drug as well with little to no real health benefits, but still, something many of us overindulge in and abuse.

All things considered, drug use is not your only option in finding a way to cope with life's difficulties and I would venture to say that drug use is a popular coping pattern that opens our youth up to imprisonment and addiction. The healthiest relationship in your life should be the one you have with yourself, and learning how to cope even in difficult times is a necessary element in finding true happiness and satisfaction in life. Standing in solitude with J. Cole I wanted to share some healthy coping mechanisms with you along with some additional resources if needed.

Some alternative coping methods include:

- Talking about a stressful event with a supportive person

- Exercising

- Deep breathing

- Writing

If the past 4/20 was more than merely recreational for you and was used as an escape from a mental illness or depression, realize that drugs are not a healthy coping mechanism and that you have many other options to choose from, including therapy with someone that can help you talk through your issues and symptoms.

To J. Cole and other artists like him thank you for saying what needs to be said and creating art that helps to positively influence our younger generations, and possibly prevents them from considering drug abuse as an option.

Gabriella Payne increases engagement in teams and communities through inspiration and strategic development. She works with universities, athletic groups, and corporations to help students and recent graduates transform their futures through strategy development workshops. She is also an advocate for healthy relationships and teaches a series called "See It Coming".

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