Perceptions of Marijuana & Using Substances to Cope – Andrew Lyon, MPH, CPS, Director of Prevention


Hey 21, on FM 97.3 WCBG. Middle of January, third Wednesday of the month, we catch up with the professionals at the McCall Behavioral Health Network. I guess we’ve had on a couple of times before joins us this time. He’s Andrew Lyon, he’s a director of prevention at McCall Behavioral Health Network. Andrew, welcome back to the show. Thank you for having me. Well we’ve got a big event here in Connecticut which kind of prompts our topic today. You know, starting 2023, cannabis is legal now. Recreational use of cannabis is legal in the state of Connecticut. It joins our neighboring states which are a little bit ahead of us. But this is becoming something that is more common. And for someone who grew up in the counterculture 70s when you know marijuana was definitely against the grain, this is a little bit of a weird paradigm shift for a lot of us. So let’s talk about this legalization and its impact on young people because it gives a sort of a tacit okinus of this substance for recreational use and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s a really interesting thing because cannabis exists in an interesting space in our culture and it’s important for us to know and remember that the adult use cannabis legalization is specifically for adult use. And what we’re seeing with a lot of students that we engage with is that this is causing a lot of confusion for youth because there’s this idea that well if adults are saying it’s safe enough to be legal or you know it’s ok to make it legal then therefore it must be safe, it must be ok for us to use. But we know that there’s a lot of research and data to show that. You know that there’s a lot of negative impacts that it has on youth on the developing grain and you know as it sort of leads into the development of substance use disorders and addiction and the role it plays on that. And so it’s important for us to really balance the messaging that we’re having around the adult use legalization versus it’s still important to make sure that we’re talking about it responsibly we’re protecting our youth and making sure that we’re acting responsibly when we are engaging with it.

Well when you dig in behind it again you know a cause and effect you start to think ok so if this is something that is safe enough to use and if it’s being used to feel better then if I’m not feeling good or there’s something going on with my life is this something I should turn to to make me feel better and that’s exactly where the prevention comes in. Well yes yes again there’s a lot you know I wish I had all the time in the world to show you’re this but you know there are a few things that we want to think about where you know first off is the perception of harm. You know with legalization again this perception of harm when we legalize a substance tends to go down and when we see that particularly with youth use rates go up and particularly when it comes to something that is a viewed as a chemical tool to help address things like stress, anxiety, depression. You know cannabis is now being legalized for adults adult use it’s entering that space similar to alcohol where we know that there are concerns and problems with this perception that if I’m feeling stressed or anxious this is something that will make me feel better.

And we’re still fighting that fight. Exactly. All these years later. Exactly. You know and what we really know is that these chemical tools are really just a temporary kind of solution to that to really sort of mask the feelings rather than address the root causes of that stress, that anxiety and the pain really behind it. And a lot of what we at the McCall behavioral health network want to sort of deal with is how can we provide healthier alternatives to addressing these, the pain, the anxiety, the stress, the things going on in people’s lives so they don’t feel the need to turn to something that is just going to mask it temporarily and really not be that long term solution. Well we’ve got a society that unfortunately puts two broaded picture that says the other thing. There are highly medicated society in so many ways, many for legit and documented medical needs but others too cope or deal with and there is plenty of that in our culture.

So I guess it’s important that that messaging start early and also for parents out there too, it’s about the right example isn’t it? I mean you could do my job for me. I mean this is, I mean you’re hitting the nail on the head. This can be a really complicated conversation. It’s just what we know is that we’re less interested in the specific substance and more interested in that behavior, in learning healthy and safe ways to deal with those tough feelings, those emotions and it does start early. It starts from the very beginning. It starts with modeling healthy behaviors, having conversations early, setting rules at home around what your expectations are, what is okay, what isn’t, being open and honest and being genuine so that your kids can feel safe coming to you and having these conversations so they don’t feel the need to find that sort of help elsewhere. Right, that clutch elsewhere. Thank you.

Our guest this time is Andrew Lyon. He’s a director of prevention from the McCall behavioral health network and we’re talking about substance use disorders and just kind of because of the latest step here in Connecticut to make adult use cannabis, recreational cannabis legal in Connecticut. To be fair too, our culture also tries to be better in our personal health. You look at New Year’s resolutions and like right up at near number one is I want to live a healthier life. So we have that aspiration. Let’s talk about the kind of tools that McCall can bring to bear to help that messaging for parents and directly to kids so that they get that imprinted in their brain, you know, living healthily early before the SUDs come knocking. Yeah, I mean our agency has a number of tools and programs that you know we can help integrate into with family units at schools and communities, you know, with individuals. And a lot of it again starts with really kind of understanding that it’s not necessarily the substance itself.

It is the learned behavior and the pattern of relying on external and chemical means to cope with what’s going on in your life. And having that conversation and identifying resources, we have a number of resources. And when it comes to the adult use cannabis legalization, there are a number of resources throughout the state. You know, I want to take the opportunity to plug the Connecticut website,, where there are plenty of resources for parents and individuals to understand what the cannabis legalization bill means for adults, for parents, for youth and tips and ways to kind of address that. All right, great helpful tip there. So, yeah, and also at the root of it when we get into substance use disorder with our time running out here this morning, there’s always some kind of pain or trauma at the root of it and through communication, getting to find out what that is is key.

Absolutely. And really, you know, whether it’s yourself or it’s a loved one that you see that you might be concerned about, if you see someone, you know, becoming more and more dependent on whatever substance it is, whether it’s cannabis, alcohol, or, you know, anything else. You know, it’s important to really be there for them and help push them towards, you know, getting help, be encouraging, be supportive because behind substance use disorders, behind addictions are pain and unmet needs in their lives. And it’s important for all of us to really be supportive and get them the help they need. And really, that’s what we strive to do every day at the McCall behavioral health network. Good way to finish it up, Andrew, line way appreciate your time today. Thanks so much for having me. Andrew is director of prevention with McCall behavioral health network and yes, with the legalization of cannabis, if you’re a parent and you’re worried about your kids and their perception, talk to them, get those lines of communication open and dig into that toolbox and use all the tools necessary to keep our kids safe.

Coming up on 831, we’ll head to the newsroom. Good morning, John. Good morning, Dale. Thank you.