Marijuana Use in Teens is the Cause of Increased Illicit Drug Use

June 26, 2024

Uncover the silent epidemic of marijuana use in teens. Learn about the risks, signs, and crucial prevention strategies. Stay informed!

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Understanding Teen Marijuana Use

Marijuana use among teenagers is a significant concern due to its potential impact on various aspects of their lives, including academic performance. Understanding the prevalence of marijuana use in this age group and its effects on academic achievement is essential for addressing this issue effectively.

Prevalence of Marijuana Use

In recent years, marijuana use among college students has reached levels not seen since the 1980s, with a notable increase during the pandemic. According to the Monitoring the Future survey, reasons for marijuana use among college students include seeking enhanced feelings, increased social connections, coping with certain feelings and moods, and simply wanting to feel high. It's important to note that while marijuana use is prevalent among some college students, the majority still choose not to use it.

Figures courtesy The Conversation

Impact on Academic Performance

Research indicates that marijuana use can have a negative impact on academic performance, particularly among college students. Studies have shown that the more frequently college students use cannabis, the lower their GPA tends to be, the more likely they are to skip class, and the longer it takes them to graduate. This can be attributed to the impaired attention and memory associated with marijuana use, which affects cognitive abilities necessary for academic success.

In addition to college students, marijuana use has also been linked to academic difficulties among adolescents. Cross-sectional and longitudinal research studies have demonstrated a negative influence on high school grades, completion of high school degrees, and the likelihood of entering college. Long-term, heavy marijuana use has been associated with structural changes in the brain, impairing information processing, IQ, memory, attention, and overall neurocognitive performance [2].

It is crucial for parents, educators, and policymakers to be aware of the potential impact of marijuana use on academic performance. By understanding the prevalence of marijuana use among teens and the associated risks, appropriate measures can be taken to address this silent epidemic and support the educational success of young individuals.

Risks and Consequences

When it comes to marijuana use in teens, there are several risks and consequences that need to be considered. Two important aspects to explore are cognitive impairment and the development of cannabis use disorder.

Cognitive Impairment and Memory

Research indicates a relationship between marijuana use and impaired attention and memory, leading to challenges in cognitive abilities. The frequency of use and the type or potency of marijuana used can play a role in the impact on cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that when marijuana use stops, cognitive performance improves, but it can take up to 28 days of abstinence [1].

Long-term, heavy use of marijuana has been linked to changes in the structure of the brain, impairing information processing, IQ, memory, attention, and neurocognitive performance. Studies have shown that individuals who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder experienced a loss of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38, with no full recovery in those who quit marijuana as adults. On the other hand, individuals who started smoking marijuana as adults didn't show notable IQ declines.

Cannabis Use Disorder

Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is a condition characterized by problematic marijuana use that leads to significant impairment or distress. Individuals with CUD continue to use marijuana despite negative consequences in various areas of their lives, such as academic performance, relationships, and overall well-being.

Studies have shown that when marijuana is legalized, there is an increase in marijuana use and marijuana-related problem behaviors among adolescents. This includes substantial diversion of medical marijuana to adolescents, increases in marijuana overdoses in young children, and an increase in marijuana-positive drivers involved in traffic fatalities [4].

It's important to note that the development of cannabis use disorder is influenced by various factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and the age at which marijuana use begins. Early initiation of marijuana use, especially during adolescence, is associated with a higher risk of developing cannabis use disorder [3].

Understanding the risks and consequences of marijuana use, such as cognitive impairment and the potential development of cannabis use disorder, is essential for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to effectively address and prevent marijuana use among teenagers. By raising awareness and providing appropriate education, we can help young individuals make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Factors Influencing Marijuana Use

When it comes to understanding the factors that contribute to marijuana use in teens, two key factors come into play: legalization and availability, and potency and formulations.

Legalization and Availability

The legalization of marijuana in certain regions has the potential to influence adolescent marijuana use. With legalization, marijuana becomes more accessible and readily available, increasing the likelihood of experimentation among teens. Additionally, greater social acceptance and the perception of reduced harm associated with marijuana use may also contribute to increased use among adolescents [4].

The debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana also plays a role in shaping perceptions and behaviors. Interestingly, parents who smoke marijuana themselves may not want their children to use it, highlighting the complexities of the issue. Furthermore, economic theory suggests that marijuana and alcohol use may be substitutes or complements, meaning changes in marijuana policies could impact alcohol consumption among adolescents.

Potency and Formulations

Over the years, the potency of marijuana has been steadily increasing. Higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive component in marijuana, may contribute to increased risks of addiction and adverse effects [3]. The introduction of new formulations, such as edibles and vaporized products, has also contributed to the evolving landscape of marijuana use. These formulations may have higher potencies compared to traditional smoking methods, potentially increasing the risks associated with use and dependence [4].

Understanding the impact of potency and formulations is crucial when considering the potential risks and consequences of marijuana use in teens. The higher the potency, the greater the risk for adverse effects, especially when regular exposure to high doses occurs. It is important to educate teens about the potential dangers associated with high-potency marijuana and the importance of responsible use.

By examining the factors of legalization and availability, as well as potency and formulations, we can gain insights into the complex landscape of marijuana use in teens. It is essential to continue studying and understanding these factors to develop effective prevention and intervention strategies to address the issue.

Teen Perception and Behavior

When it comes to marijuana use in teens, understanding their perception and behavior is crucial. Many teenagers hold certain beliefs and misconceptions about marijuana, and these can influence their patterns of use.

Beliefs and Misconceptions

Research shows that many teenagers believe that marijuana is safer than alcohol or other drugs. However, this belief is not supported by evidence. In fact, marijuana use can cause serious problems with learning, feelings, and overall health. Short-term use of marijuana can lead to significant issues, including Cannabis Use Disorder.

Some adolescents may use marijuana as a means to cope with difficult feelings, sleep difficulties, problems with concentration, and physical pain. They may perceive marijuana as the only available alternative when medical treatments have failed or when they lack access to appropriate healthcare. These teens often differentiate themselves from recreational users by emphasizing their inability to find other ways to deal with their health problems, their careful control of intake, and the benefits they experience.

It is important for both teenagers and their parents to be aware of the risks associated with marijuana use. These risks include mental illness such as psychosis, schizophrenia, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, other substance use, and school failure. However, some teens may not fully comprehend these risks and may believe that the perceived benefits of marijuana outweigh the potential harm.

Patterns of Marijuana Use

Teenagers who use marijuana for relief often do so alone and may consume it multiple times a day. They carefully regulate their intake, describing it as "moderate," involving a "few puffs," or a specific amount. They may use marijuana to alleviate depression, anxiety, stress, sleep difficulties, problems with concentration, and physical pain. For these individuals, marijuana is seen as essential to feeling better or "normal" when they perceive limited alternative options for relief.

Understanding the beliefs and patterns of marijuana use in teens is crucial for addressing the issue effectively. Open and honest communication between parents, guardians, and teenagers is essential. By discussing the potential risks and providing accurate information, parents can help shape their teens' perceptions and reduce the likelihood of problematic marijuana use. For more information on how to approach these discussions and mitigate risks, refer to our article on parental communication.

It is important to note that the information provided here is intended to raise awareness and promote informed decision-making. It is crucial to consult reputable sources, healthcare professionals, and relevant studies for a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Long-Term Effects

When it comes to marijuana use in teens, understanding the long-term effects is crucial. This section will explore two significant areas of concern: mental health risks and academic achievement.

Mental Health Risks

Research suggests that long-term marijuana use may have a wide range of effects on physical and mental health. In particular, it has been linked to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among teens. Adolescents who engage in marijuana use are more vulnerable to these mental health risks compared to adults.

It's important to note that the relationship between marijuana use and mental health is complex and can vary from person to person. While some individuals may not experience significant mental health issues, others may be more susceptible. Factors such as genetic predisposition, frequency and intensity of use, and individual vulnerability all play a role in determining the impact on mental health.

Academic Achievement

Academic achievement can be significantly affected by long-term marijuana use, particularly heavy use. Research has shown that marijuana use can impair working memory, learning, and information processing, which are vital for academic performance. Long-term, heavy use of marijuana has also been linked to changes in the structure of the brain, impacting information processing, IQ, memory, attention, and neurocognitive performance.

Early onset of marijuana use has been associated with lower levels of academic functioning. It has been suggested that marijuana use may contribute to a lack of engagement in college and difficulties in sustaining focus on academic pursuits, potentially leading to lower college completion rates. Studies have indicated that marijuana use can adversely affect academic achievement among adolescents, and research has shown a negative influence on high school grades, high school degree completion, and the likelihood of entering college.

It's important for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to be aware of these potential long-term effects on mental health and academic achievement. By understanding the risks associated with marijuana use in teens, appropriate interventions and support can be provided to help mitigate these challenges. For parents looking to have early discussions and raise awareness about marijuana use with their teens, our article on parents who smoke pot don’t want their kids to - the debate on legalizing marijuana offers valuable insights. Additionally, exploring strategies to prevent and address marijuana use in educational settings can contribute to better outcomes for students, reducing the likelihood of marijuana use and college dropouts.

Parental Communication

When it comes to addressing the issue of marijuana use in teens, parental communication plays a crucial role in raising awareness and mitigating potential risks. Early discussions and open lines of communication between parents and their children are essential in helping teens make informed decisions about marijuana use.

Early Discussions and Awareness

Teens rarely anticipate the problems that can arise from marijuana use, making it even more important for parents to initiate conversations about the risks involved. It is recommended to begin talking about the potential dangers of marijuana use with your child at an early age and continue these discussions as they grow older [6]. By providing accurate information and fostering an open dialogue, parents can help their teens develop a better understanding of the risks associated with marijuana use.

Parents should take the time to educate themselves about the effects of marijuana and the potential consequences it can have on their child's cognitive function, mental health, and overall well-being. This knowledge will enable parents to have meaningful and informed conversations with their teens, addressing any misconceptions they may have about the safety of marijuana compared to other substances.

Risk Mitigation Strategies

In addition to open communication, implementing risk mitigation strategies can further help parents guide their teens away from marijuana use. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Establish clear rules and expectations: Set clear boundaries regarding substance use and clearly communicate the consequences of breaking these rules. Consistency is key in enforcing these boundaries.
  2. Encourage healthy activities: Engage your teen in extracurricular activities, hobbies, and sports that promote a healthy lifestyle. Encouraging involvement in positive activities can reduce the likelihood of boredom or peer pressure leading to experimentation with marijuana.
  3. Foster a supportive environment: Create a supportive and nurturing home environment where your teen feels comfortable discussing their thoughts, concerns, and experiences. This will help build trust and encourage honest conversations about marijuana use.
  4. Lead by example: Be a role model by demonstrating responsible behavior and avoiding the use of marijuana or other substances. Studies have shown that parents who smoke marijuana are less likely to want their children to use it.
  5. Stay informed: Stay up to date with the latest research and information on marijuana use in teens. This will enable you to provide accurate information to your teen and address any questions or concerns they may have.

Remember, open communication and a supportive environment are key in helping teens make informed decisions about marijuana use. By maintaining an ongoing dialogue and implementing risk mitigation strategies, parents can play an active role in preventing or addressing potential issues related to marijuana use in their teens.

References

[1]: https://theconversation.com/how-does-smoking-marijuana-affect-academic-performance-two-researchers-explain-how-it-can-alter-more-than-just-moods-168158

[2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586361/

[3]: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana

[4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4308295/

[5]: /parents-who-smoke-pot-don-t-want-their-kids-to-the-debate-on-legalizing-marijuana

[6]: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/FamiliesandYouth/FactsforFamilies/FFF-Guide/Marijuana-and-Teens-106.aspx

[7]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2683812/

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