Teens at Risk – Marijuana and Vaping

If young people are hearing that marijuana is fun and harmless because it’s natural, then they’re missing the facts. Marijuana contains over 400 different chemicals, is highly addictive and is more potent today – with 300% more THC than 1970’s marijuana.

Marijuana contains up to four times the amount of tar as tobacco, and can wreak havoc on your teen’s brain development and future. Using marijuana can affect the amount of oxygen getting to their brain, can make it harder for teens to feel good when they aren’t using marijuana, and can impact their athletic, educational or career opportunities.

The Myths

  1. “Marijuana is a plant. It’s natural, how harmful can it be?”
  2. “Marijuana cures disease”
  3. “Marijuana is not addictive”
  4. “Weed is much safer than drinking alcohol.”
  5. “Marijuana is not a gateway drug.”
  6. “Marijuana calms me down and helps me focus.”
  7. “You can’t overdose on weed.”
  8. “I am a better driver when I smoke pot.”
  9. “You used marijuana.”
  10. “It won’t harm my lungs”

The Facts

  1. Many plants, including marijuana, have medicinal properties. But that doesn’t mean that in order to derive those medicinal benefits, we should smoke or ingest its raw, crude form to derive its medicinal benefits. After all, we don’t smoke opium to get the benefits of morphine. Using marijuana can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral changes. Marijuana use can harm the lungs, impair short-term memory, verbal skills, and judgment, and can also distort perception.
  2. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved marijuana to treat any medical illness. The American Medical Association does not recommend smoking marijuana as a cure or palliative for any diseases (marijuana does not cure cancer).
  3. Marijuana is addictive. A user may feel the urge to smoke marijuana again and again to re-create the “high.” Repeated use could lead to addiction—which means the person has trouble controlling their drug use and often cannot stop even though they want to.
  4. No one substance is safer than another. We have seen the negative impact of alcoholism on society, so why encourage use of another substance?
  5. Teens who used marijuana have a 2.1 to 5.2 times higher chance of other drug use, alcohol dependence, and drug abuse/dependence, than those who did not use before age 17 years. In particular, early access to and use of cannabis may reduce perceived barriers against the use of other illegal drugs and provide access to these drugs. Daily smokers of pot are 13 times more likely to use heroin. Youth under the age of 15 who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than non-users.
  6. Studies show that use of THC during adolescence changes the way the brain develops. Marijuana reduces motivation, motor-skill coordination and ability to problem solve. Marijuana can cause schizophrenia (psychosis), depression and anxiety and aggression.
  7. It is very unlikely for a person to overdose and die from marijuana use. However, people do injure themselves and die because of marijuana’s effects on judgment, perception, and coordination, such as driving under the influence or participating in risky behaviors.
  8. Marijuana directly affects the part of the brain responsible for reaction time. Smoking and driving nearly doubles your risk of an accident. Concentration is difficult; your coordination is in jeopardy; it’s hard to judge distance, speeds or identifying sounds. Marijuana stays in
    your system impairing your ability to drive long after the usage occurred.
  9. What we know about the adolescent brain now is significantly more than we knew 30 years ago. Increase in marijuana potency and the impact on the developing brain has long-lasting effects. Youth who smoke marijuana regularly, even just on the weekends, are more likely to drop out of school, less likely to enter college, and are shown to have six to eight less IQ points over time than non-smokers.
  10. Marijuana smoke contains 50-70% more carcinogenics than tobacco. Airflow obstruction of smoking a marijuana joint are comparable to smoking 2 1/2 to five cigarettes.

3 Key Takeaways

  • Marijuana use affects the development of a young person’s prefrontal cortex – the last part of the brain to develop – that controls personality, decision-making and social behavior.
  • During the teen years, their brains are creating a system of pathways that allows information to efficiently travel through brain cells – and marijuana interferes with this important development.
  • Early and heavy teen use of marijuana is associated with developing schizophrenia and with lowering IQ. It can also impact family relationships, causing fights with those close to them.

What Can I Do As A Parent?

  • Start talking to your young people on a continual basis – beginning when they’re in 5th or 6th grade – about the risks to their brains if they use marijuana.
  • Talk about the dangers of newly popular ‘edibles’ which contain high doses of THC. Being that the edible-induced high takes longer to take effect, teens may consume high qualities, quickly leading to a toxic overdoes.
  • Stress how using marijuana use is illegal and can keep them from qualifying for college funding or pursuing the career of their choice. It can also mean losing their license, paying fines, performing community service or attending educational classes.

What You Say Matters!

Teens who believe their parents think marijuana use is wrong are 46% less likely to use marijuana, according to a recent survey of 10th graders. Reduce your teen’s chance of using marijuana by talking to them about the current and future dangers.

Sources: https://raisinghealthyteens.org/start-with-this/marijuana/


Susan Parmelee, Program Director

The Wellness & Prevention Center San Clemente, CA



Weeding through the Myths Weeding through the Myths

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About the Author

Clayton Cranford
Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit. Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.