4 Ways Marijuana is More Harmful for Teens by Ron Powell
There’s a rapid push toward the legalization of marijuana.
This is frightening because it will become much more available to teens. It’s also more harmful than most people believe. Here are some facts that everyone needs to know now.
Not My Kids! So who are we talking about?
The Globe and Mail Oct. 16, 2014 Fully 28 per cent of Canadian children aged 11 to 15 admitted to using cannabis at least once in the past year (compared to 23 per cent in the United States, where pot is legal in the states of Colorado and Washington, and 17 per cent in the weed-friendly Netherlands), a 2013 United Nations Children’s Fund study found. As much as 5 per cent of Canadian adolescents – and as much as 10 per cent of Grade 12 students – smoke pot every day, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.( http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/your-kids-brain-on-pot-the-real-effects-of-marijuana-on-teens/article21127612/)
Considering 28 percent or higher of Canadian Teens and 23 percent of American teens are smoking up, teachers, pastors, parents and youth workers need to be aware and involved with making sure none of the teens they are part of this growing group!
1. It is Addictive Despite What You’ve Been Told
The myth that marijuana is not habit-forming is refuted by physicians. “There’s no question at all that marijuana is addictive,” Dr. Sharon Levy explains. She is the director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. At least 1 in 11 young adults who begin smoking will develop an addiction to marijuana, even more among those who use the more potent products that are entering the market.
Levy tells the story of an 18-year-old patient who began smoking up regularly in 10th grade, dropped out of high school, and been stealing money from her parents. She admits “She and her family were at their wits’ end trying to find appropriate treatment in a health care system that doesn’t consider addiction to marijuana a serious problem,” further, Levy warns “We are simply not prepared for the fallout of marijuana legalization.”
2. It Damages Students Memory and IQ
Here is just one of the headlines that you will see if you research this for any amount of time:
Adolescents with a “wake-and-bake” habit risk permanent losses in IQ.” Or how about: Marijuana hijacks normal brain functioning in teens, and many scientists believe the drug may have permanent effects on brain development.
Sadly people are still believing the myth that marijuana is less harmful that tobacco or alcohol. Many parents I talk to fit into the category of those who see marijuana as “Not a Big Problem.”
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports, the use of tobacco and alcohol among 12-to-17-year-olds has fallen in the past year, but habitual use of marijuana among those 12 and up is increasing.
“If you go into a high school and ask the classroom, ‘Are cigarettes harmful? Is alcohol harmful?’ every kid raises their hands,” one researcher says. “But if I ask, ‘Is marijuana harmful?’ not a hand goes up.”
In an article by the Boston Globe titled: “Can we please stop pretending marijuana is harmless? The truth is it can indeed mean trouble, especially for young people” Dr. Sushrut Jangi (OCTOBER 08, 2015) explains what the science is showing it’s harmful effects on the developing brain.
Jangi points to a recent study by Dr. Gilman. Last year, Gilman published research on 18-to-25-year-olds that showed differences in the brain’s reward system between users and non-users. Recently Gilman found that in a group of college students, smokers had impaired working memory even when not acutely high.
Jangi goes on to explain: “Physician concern for marijuana’s acceptance isn’t because doctors are a stodgy bunch — their skepticism is rooted in science and in history. In the 1950s, nearly half of Americans smoked tobacco, a level of adoption that rendered its health hazards invisible. Meanwhile, the corporate forces that drove cigarette smoking to its ascendancy actively subverted those that governed public health.”
As stated above, Gilman and associates would agree that “Marijuana hijacks normal brain functioning in teens, and many scientists believe the drug may have permanent effects on brain development.”
3. It Damages Reasoning and Emotions
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent raises his concerns:“I do want to mention a concern that I think about as a father. Young, developing brains are likely more susceptible to harm from marijuana than adult brains. Some recent studies suggest that regular use in teenage years leads to a permanent decrease in IQ. Other research hints at a possible heightened risk of developing psychosis.”
In a 2012 report, researchers from Duke University found that “cannabis use in adolescence significantly increased the likelihood of schizophrenia in adulthood, especially in individuals who had used the drug by age 15.”
Other recent research documents the risks of its use by youth are grave. Here are the findings of one such study. “Marijuana is addicting, has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain, is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer, and is associated with both psychiatric illness and negative social outcomes.”
What makes this worse is that it’s now more available than ever. “Evidence indicates limited legalization of marijuana has already raised rates of unintended marijuana exposure among young children, and may increase adolescent use. American College of Pediatricians – September 2015
Why it’s so Bad: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana “attaches to receptors in the brain that subtly modulate systems ordinarily involved in healthy behaviors like eating, learning, and forming relationships. But THC — which has been increasing in potency in legal products being sold in places like Colorado — throws the finely tuned system off balance.”
“Smoking pot turns the volume on this system way, way up,” says Jonathan Long, a research fellow at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
“Each hit of THC rewires the function of this critical cognitive system: Early evidence in mice has shown that repeated exposure to THC causes these receptors to disappear altogether, blunting the natural response to positive behaviors and requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. Marijuana exploits essential pathways we’ve evolved to retrieve a memory, to delicately regulate our metabolism, and to derive happiness from everyday life.”
4. It Robs their Future
Experimentation with marijuana today can steal a teen’s best possible options for tomorrow. Teens who smoke pot daily are 60 per cent less likely to finish high school or get a university degree than their “weed-free peers“, according to a recent study published September 2014 in the Lancet.
Other studies have warned that regular cannabis use is related to lack of ambition in teens. A PBS frontline study reports that An “amotivational syndrome” can develop in heavy, chronic marijuana users. It is characterized by decreased drive and ambition, shortened attention span, poor judgment, high distractibility, impaired communication skills, and diminished effectiveness in interpersonal situations. (National Institute of Drug Abuse)
What to Make of All This
- is not an harmless escape
- effects brain structures
- is addictive
- robs students of motivation
- restricts sound judgement , reasoning and memory
- lowers students life options
It is impossible to stop every student from developing a cannabis habit but we can educate and intervene in the lives of students who we are closely connected with. It doesn’t have to be a rite of passage for every teen and those who can avoid its damaging effects will be wiser and healthier for life.