Teenagers and Weed – Why it IS a Big Deal

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“We found that people who began using weed in their teenage years and then continued to use marijuana for many years lost about eight IQ points from childhood to adulthood, whereas those who never used marijuana did not lose any IQ points.”

~Dr. Madeline Meier, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Arizona State University

For better or worse, the marijuana laws are loosening in America. This reflects the attitude of a slight majority of Americans – 51% think that recreational marijuana should be legalized. They view it as a harmless personal activity.

“But I Smoke Pot and I’m OK”

But as the general public’s acceptance of weed grows and laws become laxer, there are some dangerous attitudes being formed. Parents who themselves might use marijuana may fail to see the harm SEVENFOLD increased risk that the drug can do to their children.

Dr. Seth Ammerman, a Stanford University Professor of Pediatrics who recently authored a report for the American Academy of Pediatrics warning against teen marijuana use, says that more and more parents are asking if it is okay for their children to use pot.

Parents will say, ‘I use it moderately and I’m fine with it, so it’s really benign and not a problem if my kid uses it,” Dr. Ammerman says.

Faulty Parental Assumptions Put Teenagers at Risk

Unfortunately, pot-smoking parents who think that way may be exposing their children to more harm than they realize.  There are several reasons why today’s marijuana is so particularly dangerous to teenagers:

  • Continuing Brain Development – The human brain continues to develop and mature into the early/mid-20s. This means marijuana usage can have long-lasting – perhaps even permanent – effects.
  • Lowered IQ – Individuals who smoke marijuana before the age of 18 experience an permanent average loss of 8 IQ points.
  • Memory Problems – Daily marijuana usage alters the shape of the brain’s hippocampus, resulting in 18% poorer scores on memory tests.
  • Mental illness – Regular marijuana use increases the risk of schizophrenia and DOUBLES the risk of psychosis.
  • Aggression/Violence – Marijuana use is associated with a SEVENFOLD increased likelihood of committing a violent crime.
  • Anxiety Disorder – Teens who habitually smoke marijuana until their early 20s are 3 times as likely to develop an anxiety disorder as non-users.
  • Depression – A 16-year study shows that non-depressed teens who begin smoking marijuana are 4 times as likely to be depressed at follow-up.
  • Greater Risk of Addiction – Teenagers who use marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder.
  • Stronger Marijuana—A generation ago, when many parents may themselves have experimented with marijuana, the average THC concentration was about 4%. Thanks to cross-breeding and other techniques, today’s weed strains can have an  average potency of over 20% THC, and marijuana “wax” can be up to 99.7% THC.

How Can I Protect My Child against Marijuana Abuse?

No matter what your personal opinions are, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to use marijuana. Fact, coupled with the extensive evidence about the perils of teenage marijuana use, means that there are some definite steps you should take to protect your children, especially if you are a user yourself:

  • Don’t use marijuana in front of your children.
  • Keep your marijuana and related paraphernalia out of sight and secured.
  • Don’t let your children see you under the influence of marijuana.
  • Don’t glorify the “virtues” of weed.

If your teen is abusing marijuana, it important that you get them professional help, before the consequences become too great and the damage becomes permanent. It is equally important that you educate yourself on how you can change your personal habits to support your child’s recovery.

by Albert Fontenot