Marijuana, like alcohol, is a drug commonly used and abused by teens. With a society that promotes a climate of pro-legalization, teens are receiving a mixed message about marijuana. Is the drug safe or not?
One search of the Internet can quickly land a teen on a site promoting and justifying the use of marijuana. Unfortunately, teens are beginning to think it’s not all that dangerous, which can lead to a path of experimentation.
What makes a teen try marijuana? Looking for a single reason is like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are multitude of reasons teens choose to use marijuana.
Five Reasons Teens Use Marijuana
- #1 I want to know what it’s like.
Many teens who try pot for the first time are curious about what it feels like to be high. Curiosity is a normal part of the teen experience; however, curiosity about drugs can become a slippery slope. Teens often believe that they are invincible and bad things won’t happen to them. If only they understood the negative impact that smoking pot has on brain development, perhaps their interest would dwindle.
- #2 Everyone else is doing it, so what’s the big deal?
Teens want to be accepted and be liked by their peers. Their desire to belong can lead to poor decision making. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Attitude Tracking Study, when teens were asked why they use marijuana, 29 percent said it was because their friends use it. So, friends play a huge role in whether teens choose to use.
- #3 I only smoke when I am bored.
In a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, about one third of teens report using marijuana to cope with boredom. Marijuana is a dangerous pastime. There are so many other healthy ways teen can fill a void in time - such as yoga, martial arts, learning to play an instrument, or getting a job. Not only are these pastimes physically and mentally stimulating, but they also promote healthy coping skills.
- #4 It helps me feel better.
Many teens are looking from an escape from everyday problems. As a result, they may turn to marijuana to help deal with painful emotions and cope with mental illness. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates one in five teens has a diagnosable mental health disorder, and about a third shows symptoms of depression. To numb the pain teens may turn to drugs. However, self-medicating can have serious long-term consequences. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs are likely to see an increase in social phobia, as well as other substance use disorders. Additionally, marijuana can worsen and intensify problematic symptoms.
- #5 To get high or feel good.
While many teens may think getting high is fun, there are some serious side effects of using marijuana. Much of the information online paints a picture of a relatively harmless substance that is not addictive. However, marijuana is harmful and addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, childhood marijuana use can have an adverse effect on:
- Learning ability, attention, and memory
- Coordination and balance
- Judgment and decision-making
Aside from these effects, the immediate effects of marijuana include a racing heart, disorientation, depression, sleepiness, increased appetite and dry mouth (aka “cottonmouth”). Some users may suffer from anxiety, panic attacks or anger and aggression. Plus, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, remains in the body for weeks. The American College of Pediatricians reports marijuana is an addicting drug that has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain development, and it is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer. Adolescents need to be exposed to the whole truth about marijuana use.
Many teens are looking from an escape from everyday problems. As a result, they may turn to marijuana to help deal with painful emotions and cope with mental illness.-Raychelle Lohmann
Spreading the Message
Unfortunately, marijuana use continues to be an uphill battle with teens. For parents, educators, and community members, we must remain vigilant in spreading the message about the dangers associated with marijuana use.
Legalization of marijuana is contributing to the belief that the drug is harmless; however, research offers concerning results regarding adolescent use. It’s time teens get the real story about what marijuana can do to their bodies, their brains and their futures.
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