The Dangers of Marijuana and Teens

Understanding the hazards of marijuana for teens: Brain development, mental health risks, and more. Protecting our youth is crucial.

Leora BH Staff
March 28, 2024

The Dangers of Marijuana and Teens

Marijuana use among teens can have significant negative effects on their health and well-being. It is important to understand these dangers in order to protect and educate our youth. This section will explore the impact of marijuana on brain development, the mental health risks associated with its use, the increased risk of substance use disorders, and the dangers of driving under the influence.

Impact on Brain Development

Marijuana use during adolescence can have a detrimental impact on brain development. The brain undergoes crucial development during this period, and exposure to marijuana can disrupt this process. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular marijuana use in teens can lead to problems with attention, memory, and learning. The developing brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of marijuana, and the long-term consequences can be significant.

Mental Health Risks

Teens who use marijuana are at an increased risk of developing mental health issues. The CDC highlights that regular marijuana use among teens is linked to an elevated risk of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts [1]. The association between marijuana use and mental health problems is a serious concern that highlights the need for prevention and intervention efforts.

Risk of Substance Use Disorders

Marijuana use in adolescence can also increase the likelihood of developing substance use disorders later in life. The CDC reports that teens who use marijuana are more likely to develop problematic use of the drug in adulthood. This emphasizes the importance of addressing marijuana use among teens and implementing effective prevention strategies.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous and poses significant risks to both the individual and others on the road. The CDC warns that teens who use marijuana are more likely to be involved in accidents while driving [1]. The impairing effects of marijuana on cognitive and motor skills can compromise judgment, reaction time, and coordination, making it unsafe for teens to operate a vehicle after marijuana use.

Understanding the dangers associated with marijuana use in teens is crucial for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to effectively communicate the risks and provide appropriate guidance. By addressing the impact on brain development, mental health risks, increased risk of substance use disorders, and the dangers of driving under the influence, we can better protect our youth and promote their overall well-being.

Long-Term Effects of Teen Marijuana Use

When it comes to the long-term effects of marijuana use during adolescence, there are several concerning implications. Understanding these effects is crucial for raising awareness about the potential risks and promoting informed decision-making.

Academic Achievement and Cognitive Function

Research has shown that marijuana use during adolescence can have a negative impact on academic achievement and cognitive function. Heavy marijuana use during this critical developmental period can lead to a decline in cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and learning. These cognitive impairments can significantly affect academic performance, potentially compromising future educational attainment and job prospects.

Increased Risk of Mental Health Disorders

Marijuana use among teens has been linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders. Studies have shown that teens who use marijuana are more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts compared to non-users. The association between marijuana use and mental health disorders underscores the negative impact of early marijuana use on overall mental well-being.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that daily marijuana use among 14-year-olds was associated with a 37% increase in depressive symptoms by age 18. Furthermore, teenagers who used cannabis at least weekly had a 46% higher risk of reporting suicidal thoughts by young adulthood [3]. In states where recreational marijuana use was legalized, there was a 22% increase in suicide attempts by adolescents, as reported in another study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

Permanent Impairments in IQ and Cognitive Functions

Perhaps one of the most concerning long-term effects of teen marijuana use is the potential for permanent impairments in IQ and cognitive functions. Marijuana use during adolescence can permanently lower a person's IQ by up to 8 points, which can have significant implications for educational attainment and job prospects in the future. The adolescent brain is still developing, and it is more vulnerable to the harmful effects of marijuana use, making early initiation particularly risky.

Higher Risk of Developing Schizophrenia

Another significant concern associated with teen marijuana use is the increased risk of developing schizophrenia. Studies have suggested that the risk of developing this severe mental illness is four times higher for teenage marijuana users compared to non-users. The exact mechanisms underlying this association are not fully understood, but the evidence highlights the potential for marijuana use to have long-lasting consequences on mental health.

Understanding the long-term effects of marijuana use during adolescence is crucial for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to address this issue effectively. By raising awareness and providing appropriate support and education, we can help protect our youth from the potential hazards associated with marijuana use.

Statistics on Teen Marijuana Use

To understand the scope of the issue and the prevalence of marijuana use among teenagers, it is important to examine the available statistics. These figures shed light on the extent of marijuana use among teens, changing perceptions and risks associated with its use, as well as disparities in usage rates.

Prevalence of Marijuana Use Among Teens

Marijuana is one of the most widely used substances among adolescents in the United States. In 2019, according to the CDC, approximately 9% of 8th graders, 20% of 10th graders, and 35% of 12th graders reported past-year marijuana use. These figures highlight the significant presence of marijuana in the lives of many teenagers.

Changing Perceptions and Risks

Perceptions of marijuana's acceptability have been shifting in recent years. Research shows that perceptions of risk associated with regular marijuana use have decreased among adolescents. In fact, less than one-third of 12th graders perceive great risk in using marijuana regularly. This change in perception can potentially contribute to increased experimentation and use among teenagers.

Disparities in Usage Rates

It is important to acknowledge that there are disparities in marijuana use rates among different demographic groups. Historically, Black youth have used marijuana at lower rates compared to White youth. However, in recent years, rates of marijuana use among Black youth have risen and surpassed those of White youth. This disparity underscores the need for targeted interventions and support for communities disproportionately affected by marijuana use.

Additionally, the legalization of cannabis in certain regions has had an impact on youth marijuana use. For example, in Canada, the legalization of cannabis has led to an increase in marijuana use among youth. Rates of past-year cannabis use among grade 12 students in Ontario doubled between 2017 and 2019. These findings highlight the potential consequences of changing legal frameworks on youth marijuana use.

Understanding the prevalence of marijuana use among teenagers, changing perceptions of its risks, and disparities in usage rates is crucial for developing effective prevention strategies and providing appropriate support to young individuals. By addressing these statistics, we can work towards protecting our youth from the potential hazards associated with marijuana use.

Prevention and Education

When it comes to protecting teens from the dangers of marijuana use, prevention and education play a crucial role. By providing the right information and resources, parents, healthcare professionals, and educators can help teens make informed decisions and avoid the potential risks associated with marijuana use.

Talking to Teens About Substance Use

Open and honest communication is essential when discussing substance use with teenagers. Starting the conversation early and maintaining an ongoing dialogue can prevent the first use and protect a teen's brain development and day-to-day functionality [7]. It is important to approach the topic without negative or angry comments, offering educational materials and facts about substance use. By engaging in a non-judgmental conversation, parents can create a safe space for their teens to ask questions and express their concerns.

Involving Healthcare Professionals

A vital step in prevention and education is involving healthcare professionals in the discussion. Primary care professionals can provide valuable guidance and support when it comes to addressing substance use with teenagers. They can offer evidence-based information, identify potential risk factors, and provide appropriate interventions if needed. By working together with healthcare professionals, parents can ensure that their teens receive comprehensive care and support.

Providing Educational Resources

Educational resources are instrumental in helping teenagers understand the risks associated with marijuana use. These resources can include informative websites, brochures, videos, and other materials that present scientific facts and research findings. By providing access to reliable and up-to-date information, parents and educators can empower teens to make informed choices about their health and well-being. It is important to highlight the potential mental health risks associated with teenage marijuana use, as research has shown an increased risk of developing depression and suicidal thoughts in young adulthood. By equipping teens with knowledge, they can better understand the potential consequences of marijuana use.

Recognizing Warning Signs

Recognizing the warning signs of marijuana use is crucial for early intervention and prevention. Parents and caregivers should familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of marijuana use, such as changes in behavior, declining academic performance, and withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities. By being vigilant and observant, adults can address potential issues promptly and seek professional help if necessary. Early intervention can make a significant difference in preventing and addressing substance use disorders.

By implementing prevention and education strategies, parents, healthcare professionals, and educators can work together to protect teens from the hazards of marijuana use. Open dialogue, involvement of healthcare professionals, access to educational resources, and recognizing warning signs are key components in promoting healthy choices and minimizing the potential risks associated with marijuana use among teenagers.

Marijuana and Co-occurring Substance Use

In addition to the individual risks associated with marijuana use, it is important to understand the potential dangers when marijuana is used in conjunction with other substances. Co-occurring substance use, particularly involving binge drinking and alcohol, can lead to increased negative consequences for young adults.

Binge Drinking Among Young Adults

Binge drinking among young adults is a concerning issue that has reached pre-pandemic levels in 2021 after a decrease in 2020. Binge drinking refers to the consumption of a large amount of alcohol in a short period, leading to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This pattern of alcohol consumption can have serious health and safety implications.

Alcohol and Marijuana Use Together

Marijuana and alcohol are the most commonly used substances by adolescents and young adults. It is not uncommon for individuals to consume marijuana and alcohol simultaneously. However, this co-occurring substance use can result in greater negative social and medical health consequences.

The simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Additionally, the combination of these substances can have compounding effects on cognitive function and mental health, further exacerbating potential risks and negative outcomes.

Risks and Consequences

The co-occurring use of alcohol and marijuana among adolescents and young adults is associated with a range of risks and consequences. Some of these include:

  • Impaired driving: Using alcohol and marijuana together can significantly impair a person's ability to operate a vehicle safely. This increases the risk of accidents and injury, not only to the individual but also to others on the road.
  • Involvement in the criminal justice system: Co-occurring substance use can contribute to legal troubles, such as driving under the influence or possession of illicit substances. Involvement with the criminal justice system can have long-lasting consequences for individuals, impacting their education, employment, and personal relationships.
  • Higher rates of substance use disorders: The simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana is associated with a higher risk of developing alcohol and cannabis use disorders. These disorders can have a significant impact on a person's physical and mental health, as well as their overall well-being.

It is important to recognize the potential dangers of co-occurring substance use and encourage young adults to make informed and responsible choices regarding their substance use habits. Education and prevention efforts should focus not only on the individual risks of each substance but also on the potential compounding effects when used together.


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