Teen Marijuana Substance Abuse
Teen Marijuana Use
One of the hallmarks of being a teenager is the temptation to experiment and test boundaries. Sometimes, that leads to experimentation with drugs and alcohol. When it comes to marijuana, on average, kids who smoke tend to start between the ages of 12 and 16 (CDC.gov).
The National Institute of Drug Abuse study, Monitoring the Future, found that 6.6% of eighth-graders had smoked marijuana or hashish in the past month, while 11.8% had smoked in the past year. By 10th grade, those numbers jump to 18.4% and 28.8%, respectfully. By senior year, 22.3% reported marijuana use in the past month, while 35.7% had smoked pot in the past year.
Decreased Stigma of Marijuana Use
The stigma of marijuana use has declined since the early 2000s, with some states legalizing it for medical and even recreational uses. While it may not be as problematic for adult use as once believed, there are still plenty of good reasons to discourage pot smoking in teenagers.
First of all, it’s illegal. And research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that childhood marijuana use can affect learning ability, attention, memory, coordination, balance, judgment, and decision-making.
Why Teens Smoke Weed
There is not one clear reason why teens begin using marijuana, but several reasons why they may begin smoking weed. Teens who have family members who smoke or express approval of marijuana use are much more likely to begin using than those without family involvement in the drug.
Peer pressure to smoke pot remains a strong influence as well. If they have friends who are using marijuana, teens are much more likely to try it themselves. They tend to adopt the “everyone’s doing it” attitude and assume it is a normal part of the teenage experience. However, research shows that the majority of teens make it all the way through high school without every trying marijuana.
Marijuana Use in Adolescence Can Have the Following Short-Term Consequences
- Difficulty learning and retaining information
- Car accidents
- Risky sexual behavior (leading to sexually transmitted disease or unwanted pregnancy)
- Bronchitis (can become chronic if marijuana use continues)
Long-Term Consequences of Teen Marijuana Use
- Addiction and/or Marijuana Use Disorder
- The same breathing problems as smoking cigarettes (coughing, wheezing, trouble with physical activity, and lung cancer)
- Decreased motivation or interest which can lead to decline in academic or occupational performance
- Lower intelligence
- Mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, moodiness, and risk of suicide
- Life altering and/or fatal automobile accidents
Many teens begin using marijuana without understanding the harm it can do to their developing brains. And more often, they make a decision to begin smoking pot based on misinformation.
The Risks of Marijuana Use
Some teens begin using marijuana without understanding the risks and harm it causes while their brains are not fully developed. Or more often, they make the decision to begin smoking weed or consuming edibles based on misinformation.
The legalization of marijuana in many states has played a large role in sending a mixed message to young people. Teens might believe “if it’s medicine, it must be safe” or “if it’s legal, it must be okay.”
In no state where marijuana has been made legal for medical or recreational use has it been made legal for anyone under the age of 21. Not even the most adamant legalization advocates propose making it legal for children to use marijuana.
If you are a parent who wants to protect your children from the dangers associated with marijuana use, educate them with the facts so that they can make an informed decision about the risks.
Contrary to popular opinion, addiction to marijuana is possible, and even more likely to occur if an individual begins using before the age of 18. In fact, marijuana use disorder accounts for nearly 50% of admission for those ages 12 to 17 years who are receiving substance use disorder treatment, according to the NIDA.
Talking to Your Kids
Parents face a tough dilemma about substance use: we may want our children to abstain from alcohol and drug use but what do we do if they are not? Besides the effects of substance use on the developing brain, teens using substances may face very serious consequences.
Signs of Teen Drug or Alcohol Use
Figuring out if your child is using drugs or alcohol may pose a challenge. Many of the very early signs and symptoms could just be typical teen or young adult behavior. Many may also be signs of mental health issues, including depression or anxiety.
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