Marijuana’s Effects on Teens
More than half of U.S. states plus Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing marijuana for recreational or medicinal use. As a result, many teens and adults believe marijuana is a “safe” alternative to alcohol or other recreational drugs. In spite of the White House’s recent statement, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, which means it is currently a Schedule I drug on the DEA’s controlled substances list. Because marijuana has been on Schedule I for so long, reputable studies of its long-term effects remain limited, but what we know about how it impacts developing adolescent brains is alarming.
According to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, as many as 30% of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. Meanwhile, those who start using the drug before age 18 are up to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder. Adolescent exposure to marijuana can significantly impact cognitive ability later in life, including the ability to retain memories and learn new things.
Drugs Are More Dangerous for Teen Brains
Even if your son or daughter gets good grades and usually makes mature choices, it’s crucial to remember that teens are vulnerable to peer pressure. That’s because they use the emotional, impulsive part of their brain to make decisions. If a friend or someone they look up to offers them marijuana, they may have trouble saying no – especially if they believe it’s harmless.
A peer-reviewed study published earlier this year in the research publication JAMA Pediatrics is the latest entry in a growing body of evidence suggesting that teens are more vulnerable to developing substance use disorders than fully grown adults. The study also supports the idea that early drug experimentation makes it more likely someone will develop a substance use disorder.
Additional research suggests a connection between frequent marijuana use and psychosis. High-potency strains with more than 10% THC can increase a user’s odds of experiencing a frightening break with reality. That’s especially worrying because these products are much more readily available from dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Like all drugs, marijuana affects the brain’s reward centers, where it can cause mood changes, impair memory and decision-making skills and distort users’ sense of time and reality. Despite all its other negative effects, cannabis can feel like an escape mechanism for adolescents.
Teens who become dependent on marijuana to feel “normal” will experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit or taper off. Ultimately, they may continue using it to avoid these side effects:
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings and irritability
- Trouble sleeping and concentrating
- Sweating and chills
- Depression and anxiety
Preventing Addiction in Teens and Young Adults
Parents may brush off teen substance use as a brief phase their children will soon outgrow. While new experiences are a valuable part of the learning process, drug use can be especially problematic for adolescents, with far-reaching consequences.
If your son or daughter regularly uses marijuana and you worry that it may affect their promising future, our professional counseling services can help your family get back on a healthy track. Whether your child needs a family intervention, outpatient treatment, therapeutic consulting or any of our other specialized services, R&A Therapeutic Partners is here for you with our compassion, knowledge and decades of combined experience. Contact us to learn how we can help you heal your family.
At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.