Young people are for sure at greater risk than adults, when it comes to consuming marijuana. Read on to learn why.
Effects Of Marijuana On Teenagers
Effects on the brain
The adolescent brain is still developing its frontal cortex, the part that is responsible for critical thinking, inhibition and handling emotions.
Effects of cannabis can be reversible if the substance is rarely used and not in significant amounts.
But chronic exposure modifies the brain responses. Because the chemicals are not entirely removed from the body of daily users, THC molecules are constantly acting on the teenager’s brain. That can lead to disruption of a healthy development and functioning of various cognitive functions:
- Enhanced sensations and distorted perceptions are
- Delay of reaction time
- Less efficient coordination and balance
- Attention, memory, and memory decrease significantly
- Difficulties with logical thinking and problem-solving increase
Finally, the drug can trigger psychotic symptoms. But again, there is not evidence that cannabis use causes it. Research rather suggests, that it triggers dormant symptoms in already predisposed, vulnerable adolescents or worsen them.
Effects on health
Smoking marijuana involves smoking tobacco. That is equally adverse as smoking cigarettes and causes similar harm to the respiratory system. It might be even more harmful:
- Users usually inhale weed more deeply than cigarettes
- Marijuana contains more carcinogens than cigarettes
Cannabis also damages the endocrine system in men and decrease the testosterone level. In the most critical cases, men can develop testicular cancer. Less severe situations are not less inconsequential: the quantity and the quality of sperm decreases and can lead to impotence.
Effects on behavior
Marijuana use is associated with reduced performance or dropping out of school. However, no evidence exist to support cannabis to the reason for it, as it is with other drugs. In the case of marijuana, the teenager usually already was in a precarious situation at school. Marijuana is often an available escape or excuse, as can be for others video games. Personality traits and family issues are much more decisive factors to determine success at school and in social life.
Despite the widespread belief, that marijuana is safe – it is, in fact, addictive.
While 9% of all marijuana eventually become addicted to it, this number is double in teenagers: 17% of casual users and 25-50 of long-term daily users develop an addiction problem. Among patients aged 12-17 admitted to drug rehab programs, 70% of them came to recover from marijuana addiction.
Getaway to Harder Drugs
People frequently associate marijuana with a co-occurring use of alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs. THC contained in cannabis is often used to strengthen the effects of other substances. Despite the common practice of cannabis as an enhancer, there is no evidence that marijuana consumption leads to harder drugs.
Why Do Teenagers Use Marijuana?
Initiation to marijuana mostly occurs by an authority figure to the child. That can happen in the neighborhood, at school or even at home. Much as with smoking cigarettes, kids that have family members who smoke weed are much more likely to start themselves. Children from a family without connection to cannabis that happens much less, because they don’t experience it as normal or acceptable behavior.
The parents’ opinion is a major factor too. Teenagers whose parents are not against marijuana use don’t receive any message to refrain from it.
The need of peer approval is the second most important reason for young people to start smoking cannabis.
Their friends don’t even need to use it themselves. Friends that express disapproval provide an incentive not to smoke weed and gain the friends’ respect. But the lack of weed disapproval can make teens want to try it out.
On the other hand, if friends use alcohol and other substances, teenagers will often want to fit in and be cool. The recent survey by SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) reports that teens aged 12-17 whose friends consumer cannabis are 39 times more likely to use it themselves compared to their non-smoking peers.
Finally, the attitude of shared responsibility “everyone does it” makes it seem less harmful or less wrong. If kids believe that their non-smoking friend would not be upset about them using marijuana are 16 times more likely to consume cannabis than if they expected an adverse judgment.
Media and Advertisement
Teenagers are as much exposed to media as adults. They have access to movies and advertisements, they listen to songs and read on the web. These are all influential information sources, in which drug use is frequently portrayed.
Being a teenager is a very challenging period. Many of them have troubles to handle their emotion. Some teens use marijuana to self-medicate to cope with anxiety, anger or depression.
Using the drug provides an instant gratification and a pleasurable escape from reality. Kids can have different reasons for doing so:
- Simple boredom is of the main reasons reported by kids to get into marijuana use.
- Lack of confidence is quite common at this age and comes with peer pressure. If their friends use cannabis, they will very likely do so as well.
- Another common reason is a rebellion against what their parents or caretakers say. They may not even disagree with their caretakers. Often children that feel very controlled will start smoking weed to feel in control about something. Those that feel not being cared for sometimes do it to punish their care-takers.
- That is why sexually or otherwise physically abused children are particularly prone to self-medication.
Many young people start consuming marijuana without being properly informed about the consequences. They don’t know about the harmful effects it can have on their brain development.
The political discussions about marijuana legalizations are also misleading for teens. If they hear that cannabis is used as medicine, they might believe that it is safe to use. In reality, cannabis has very different consequences on adults’ brains compared to teenagers’ brains.
In fact, often their parents don’t even know about the health risks associated with early marijuana use. Also, parents often ignore the ease of access to this substance among young people.
What Can You Do As A Parent
If Your Child is Not Addicted
It is worth educating yourself and teaching your child as soon as possible. Family relationships are one of the strongest factors that will decide on the child’s personality and resistance to peer pressure. Avoiding these topics does not protect the child from them, it will only keep the young person ignorant and potentially vulnerable to harm. Talking to your child in a loving and compassionate way not only will make the child listen and respect you. The bond that strengthens also removes a lot of emotional distress from the young person growing up. It removes incentives to self-medicate.
What if My Child is Addicted?
If your teenager already struggles with drug abuse, it is crucial not to make it any more difficult. Marijuana use is usually only a symptom of deeper issues the child might have. Maybe emotional distress which is hard to handle or a traumatic event, too shameful to share. Most drug abusers had core reasons to start substance abuse. The importance is to focus on handling these reasons, usually deep emotional issues. Sometimes professional help is needed. If so, don’t hesitate to get it – the sooner, the better.