The Dangers of Marijuana and Teens

May 7, 2024

Understanding Teen Marijuana Use

When it comes to understanding the dangers of marijuana and teens, it's crucial to consider both the statistics on usage and the impact on the developing brain.

Statistics on Teen Marijuana Use

Recent data shed light on the extent of marijuana use among teenagers. According to the CDC, in 2019, 37% of US high school students reported lifetime use of marijuana, and 22% reported use in the past 30 days. A considerable percentage of middle and high school students also reported past-year marijuana vaping—8% of eighth graders, 19% of 10th graders, and 22% of 12th graders.

Moreover, the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 11.8 million young adults aged 18 to 25 reported using marijuana in the past year. In 2022, the Monitoring the Future Survey discovered that 30.7% of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past year, with 6.3% of them reporting daily marijuana use.

Age Group Marijuana Use
High School Students (Lifetime Use) 37%
High School Students (Past 30 Days) 22%
Eighth Graders (Past Year Vaping) 8%
10th Graders (Past Year Vaping) 19%
12th Graders (Past Year Vaping) 22%
18 to 25 Year Olds (Past Year Use) 11.8 Million
12th Graders (Past Year Use) 30.7%
12th Graders (Daily Use) 6.3%

Impact on Developing Teen Brains

The teen brain is actively developing until around age 25, and marijuana use during adolescence and young adulthood may harm this development [2]. More specifically, chronic use of high amounts of THC through marijuana can lead to cognitive impairment and poor educational outcomes.

The human brain continues developing through age 25, and marijuana use during adolescence and young adulthood may impair learning and memory by impacting brain development and connections necessary for these functions.

Chronic, early cannabis use is associated with several adverse effects that can impact an individual’s life, including cognitive impairment, poor educational outcomes, and mental health disorders. Moreover, chronic use of high amounts of THC through marijuana or THC resins can lead to addiction, and individuals who start using marijuana during youth or adolescence and use it frequently may be at higher risk of developing a marijuana use disorder [1].

These statistics and impacts underscore the importance of understanding and addressing teen marijuana use. The data highlight the need for increased awareness, education, and prevention efforts to protect the health and well-being of our youth.

Risks and Consequences

Understanding the risks and consequences associated with marijuana use in teenagers is crucial for encouraging safe and informed decisions. The dangers of marijuana and teens are wide-ranging, affecting cognitive abilities, mental health, and risk for addiction.

Cognitive Impairment and Learning

Teenagers who use marijuana may experience cognitive impairment, with potential impacts on learning and memory. The teen brain is actively developing until around age 25, and marijuana use during this critical period may harm this development. Chronic, early cannabis use is associated with cognitive impairment and poor educational outcomes, potentially affecting a teenager's future opportunities and success [1].

Mental Health Concerns

Marijuana use in teenagers can also lead to mental health concerns. Regular marijuana use in adolescents has been linked to reduced life satisfaction, higher risks of developing drug dependence, and increased chance of attempting suicide. Chronic daily users of cannabis often report high levels of anxiety, depression, and fatigue [4].

Addiction and Cannabis Use Disorder

Frequent marijuana use can lead to addiction, particularly if use begins during adolescence. Chronic use of high amounts of THC, the active compound in marijuana, can lead to a marijuana use disorder [1]. This disorder can have serious impacts on a teenager's life, including lower income, increased welfare dependence, higher rates of unemployment, and engagement in criminal behavior [3].

Educating teenagers about the risks and consequences of marijuana use is vital. This knowledge can help teens make informed decisions and potentially avoid the detrimental effects of marijuana use. Parents and caregivers play a key role in this education process and should strive to communicate about these risks early and often.

Long-Term Effects

A crucial aspect of understanding the dangers of marijuana and teens revolves around recognizing the long-term effects. These consequences, often overlooked in the immediacy of adolescent life, can have significant implications for educational attainment, income, and engagement in the workforce.

Educational Attainment and Income

Research has shown a compelling link between regular marijuana use in adolescents and reduced educational attainment. This includes lower chances of graduating high school, decreased likelihood of obtaining a degree, and higher risks for developing drug dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide, according to studies in Australia and New Zealand.

Furthermore, long-term, heavy cannabis use can have a detrimental impact on income. Individuals who engage in this pattern of use are less likely to complete college and more likely to have yearly household incomes of less than $30,000 compared to those who use marijuana less heavily. This is despite having similar educational and income backgrounds.

Employment and Industrial Impact

The repercussions of teen marijuana use also extend to the workforce. Heavy marijuana use is associated with lower income, increased welfare dependence, higher rates of unemployment, engagement in criminal behavior, and lower life satisfaction, as indicated by various studies.

In terms of industrial impact, marijuana use can lead to significant concerns surrounding safety and productivity. Employees who tested positive for marijuana on pre-employment urine drug tests were found to have 55% more industrial accidents, 85% more injuries, and 75% greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negative for marijuana use, based on a study conducted among postal workers.

These cumulative long-term effects illustrate the overarching concerns surrounding marijuana use among teenagers. They underscore the importance of creating awareness, encouraging prevention strategies, and promoting healthier choices for our youth.

Mental Health Associations

One of the significant aspects of the dangers of marijuana and teens is the potential impact on mental health. This includes the associations between marijuana use and conditions such as depression and anxiety, as well as the role of self-medication and other risk factors.

Depression and Anxiety

Studies have indicated a connection between marijuana use and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. For instance, in a study published by NCBI PMC, 60% of participants had used cannabis by the age of 20; 7% were daily users at that point. Notably, daily use in young women was associated with an over fivefold increase in the odds of reporting a state of depression and anxiety after adjusting for intercurrent use of other substances.

Moreover, frequent cannabis use in teenagers predicted an approximately twofold increase in risk for later depression and anxiety after adjustment for potential baseline confounders. It's important to highlight that in contrast, depression and anxiety in teenagers predicted neither later weekly nor daily cannabis use.

Self-Medication and Risk Factors

There is a considerable degree of uncertainty about the level of association between cannabis use and depression and anxiety, as well as the mechanism underlying the link. Pre-existing symptoms might raise the likelihood of cannabis use through self-medication, or cannabis use may be more likely in individuals with a background of social adversity or other risk factors for mental disorders.

Chronic daily users of cannabis report high levels of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and low motivation. A recent survey of young adults found that over a third reported symptoms of anxiety associated with cannabis use, with young women reporting these symptoms more commonly. Cross-sectional associations between cannabis use and depression and anxiety have been reported in surveys of both adolescents and adults.

It's crucial to acknowledge that frequent cannabis use in teenage girls predicts later depression and anxiety, with daily users carrying the highest risk. Given the increasing levels of cannabis use, measures to reduce frequent and heavy recreational use are warranted.

These findings underscore the importance of considering mental health associations when discussing the dangers of marijuana and teens. They also highlight the need for further research to understand the complex relationships between marijuana use, depression, and anxiety, especially among teenagers.

Prevention and Awareness

Addressing the issue of marijuana use among teenagers is a crucial aspect in mitigating the dangers associated with it. Prevention and awareness can play a significant role in helping teens understand the risks and consequences, and in fostering responsible decision-making.

Talking to Teens About Risks

Talking to teens about the dangers of marijuana use early and continuously can help delay the age of first use and protect their developing brains. However, it's worth noting that teenagers often underestimate the potential problems related to marijuana use. Therefore, it's essential to provide them with accurate and comprehensive information about the risks involved [5].

A study by UC Davis Health suggests that encouraging substance-free activities that are enjoyable and help teens cope with negative feelings may lead to reduced cannabis use and fewer negative consequences. Thus, activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and emotional wellbeing can serve as a prevention strategy against marijuana use among teenagers.

Legal and Medical Considerations

The legal landscape around medical marijuana is rapidly changing and varies from state to state. However, it's important for parents and teens to understand that there is limited research supporting the use of medical marijuana in children or teens for most conditions. Moreover, there is no evidence that medical marijuana is any safer than other marijuana [5].

Teens who use cannabis are at risk of developing addiction or cannabis use disorder, meaning they are unable to quit using cannabis. This reality underscores the dangers associated with teenage cannabis use [6].

In conclusion, open and ongoing dialogues about the dangers of marijuana and teens, combined with legal and medical considerations, can play a crucial role in prevention and awareness. It's essential for parents, educators, and healthcare providers to work collaboratively in providing teens with the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.








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