Portions of this post are from Partnership for Youth’s “Marijuana and Youth Health” Handout
THC, the chemical in marijuana that produces the “high,” affects many areas of the brain, including those that control pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.
The brain is developing rapidly during the adolescent years and outside influences can have a lasting effect, whether those influences are positive, like healthy relationships and opportunities to learn new skills, or negative, like marijuana and other drugs.
Go you! Learning about the health effects of marijuana use on young people and talking with them about it in a non-judgmental manner are great ways to protect their health.
Research suggests that regular use of marijuana during adolescence may result in:
– Problems with memory, attention, and learning
– Poorer performance in school and increased risk of dropping out
– Increased likelihood of use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
– Mental health issues, such as impaired emotional development, depression, anxiety and psychotic symptoms (not knowing what is real, paranoia)
Moreover, marijuana is addictive. While approximately 9 percent of users overall become addicted to marijuana, about 17 percent of those who start during adolescence become addicted. Delaying use makes a difference. The longer young people wait before they try marijuana or any other substance, the less likely they are to develop problem use later on.
Nationwide, adolescents often do not think using marijuana is as risky as using other alcohol or other substances. In fact, student survey data shows that fewer students today think that regular marijuana use is risk than ten to fifteen years ago. In 2006, 58% of high school seniors in the United States responded that there was a “great risk” when asked “How much do people risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways) if they smoke marijuana regularly,” In 2016, less than a third of high school seniors answered that there was a great risk.1 Massachusetts and local survey data reflect this trend, which has continued since 2016.
Vaping is now a common way that teens take in THC, the psychoactive component in marijuana. Vaping is sometimes perceived as healthier than smoking marijuana, though the outbreak of acute lung illness in 2019 did raise concerns for adults and teens about the safety of vaping marijuana or THC. Even if all contaminants linked to the vaping-related lung illness are removed from vape liquid, THC is not good for developing teen brains.
The bottom line: Marijuana use is more dangerous for young people than it is for adults.