Marijuana use has always been considered an issue when entering high schools. Still, in the age of legalization, access to marijuana has become simpler than it has been in recent memory. While the United States hasn’t legalized the drug, the laws are changing rapidly across the country. Some states still implement stiff penalties to those caught with marijuana, but others may turn a blind eye if it’s a small personal amount. It’s been argued that the drug is safer than alcohol, but it’s vital to know that all drugs come with risks despite these claims. Adults may be able to consume the substance without issue, but teenage marijuana use is detrimental to their health.
All states on the west coast have legalized marijuana, and a total of 11 states across the U.S. have fully decriminalized and legalized the drug. The stigma toward the drug has declined significantly since the early 2000s, and while adult use is not as problematic as once thought, there are still various reasons why teenagers should not use the drug. Marijuana causes damage to the developing brain and may cause long-term problems. With that said, despite its legality, it’s completely illegal for anyone under the age of 21, similar to alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), childhood use of marijuana affects attention, learning disabilities, balance, coordination, decision-making, memory, and judgment. Marijuana is not innocent like you may think, and teenage marijuana use is causing health problems nationwide.
Why do Teens Smoke Marijuana?
It would be easier if there were a clear-cut reason why young children and teens smoke marijuana, but there are many reasons why they choose to begin using the drug. If you want to be on top of your children to ensure they stay away from the drug, you must be diligent in many areas of influence in their lives. You must talk with your children about the dangers and find unique ways to discourage use. Below we’ll discuss some of the primary reasons teens pick up the drug.
One of the most common answers relating to trying a drug is peer pressure – children or teenagers with family members who smoke or approve of marijuana are more likely to start using the drug than those with no family involvement. In that same breath, children or teens who live in a neighborhood with drug activity are less likely to express disapproval of drug use and are more likely to experiment themselves.
Friends that use marijuana remain a strong influence as well, and if your child has a friend who smokes marijuana, they are at risk of trying it themselves. Children and teens are more likely to adopt the attitude of “everyone is doing,” which is a normal part of the experience in that age range. Fortunately, statistics show that most teens make it through high school without ever trying marijuana.
Drugs and alcohol are often promoted in music and pop culture, and these influences are proven significant for young teens. It relates to the wanting to feel accepted, and when a teen sees their idol using marijuana, it may influence them to pick up the drug and try it as well.
Self-Medicating and Escape
We are experiencing new emotions and a rush of hormones that we don’t know how to handle during our teen years. Many teens might turn to marijuana to self-medicate to cope with all these feelings. Marijuana use, in the short-term, might mask anxiety, depression, or anger. Marijuana can also be used to escape reality, and boredom is one of the top reasons teens report using the drug.
In some cases, children or teens that have been physically or sexually abused may also turn to drugs to escape the fear and pain caused by abuse. This demographic is at a greater risk than other teens to experiment with marijuana and other drugs.
Understanding How Marijuana is Detrimental to a Teens Health
Most kids start abusing marijuana without understanding the harm it may cause to their undeveloped brains and minds. In some cases, they might make decisions based on misinformation. The legalization across the country has sent a mixed message to teens that it’s not dangerous. If someone believes it’s medicinal, it removes the fear attached to the drug, leading to them thinking it’s safe or OK to use.
Despite the legality for medicinal or recreational use, it remains illegal for anyone under the age of 21. Not even those most adamant about legalization had children in mind to use the drug. It was designed for consenting adults to use responsibly like alcohol.
If you are a parent who’s watched this unfold and have become increasingly concerned about its dangers, you must educate your children or teen. The risks attributed to marijuana use in the developing mind can have disastrous consequences. Having an open discussion allows them to make an informed decision about the risks involved with experimentation. Some short-term consequences a child or teen may deal with when trying the drug include:
- Car accidents
- Difficulty learning and retaining new information
- Bronchitis (may become chronic if marijuana is abused)
- Risky sexual behavior that could lead to STDs
Although marijuana addiction is less common, it’s possible and more likely to occur if you start using the drug before turning 18. An estimated 50 percent of admissions into substance use treatment for young adults and teens from 12 to 17 were for marijuana use disorders. Although the drug isn’t addictive in the fashion you expect from opioids, benzos, or alcohol, it can alter brain chemistry and cause a teen to become heavily dependent on the substance.
Marijuana Use Causes a Poorer Quality of Life
Marijuana is detrimental to teenagers beyond their health, and use is linked to dropping out of high school at a higher rate than their non-using peers. Studies have shown it leads to less career success, lower salaries, and diminished life satisfaction as the teen gets older. Some of this may be attributed to altered brain development and cognitive impairment caused by damage to the developing brain.
Marijuana Use May Cause Mental Illness in Teens
Research has shown that ingesting high doses of marijuana can lead to panic attacks and acute psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking in someone already severely mentally ill. The risk of psychosis is more significant in those with genetic risk factors. Other research has linked chronic marijuana use in teens to an increased risk of schizophrenia.
Marijuana Impairments Leads to Auto Accidents
Learning how to drive is a new and scary phase in a teenager’s life, but driving when impaired makes this more challenging. Using marijuana impairs your alertness, judgment, coordination, concentration, and reaction times. Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of marijuana can double a teen’s risk of a car accident, and that risk is amplified if they consume small amounts of alcohol.
Talk to Your Teens About Marijuana and the Dangers
Having an open dialogue to discuss how marijuana use is detrimental to your teen’s health is crucial. As a parent, this should be done even if a teen isn’t using it because it can help prevent future use. If you find evidence of your teen using, you must share with them what you’ve discovered and express why you believe they might be smoking marijuana. Your teen will likely get defensive, but they must understand the dangers associated with the drug and their developing brain.