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Teens and Marijuana

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Teens and Marijuana

 

What Is Marijuana?

 

Marijuana is a drug that is used extensively through-out the world. It originates from the Cannabis Sativa plant and is dried and used as a hallucinogen. While marijuana is the most common drug that derives from the hemp plant, other stronger drugs come from the same origin; hashish and sinsemilla are both more potent varieties of the same drug. There are many different names for marijuana which include pot, dope, draw, weed, gear, wacky baccy, skunk, hash, reefer and ganja. Sanna (2008) notes that marijuana is typically smoked in cigarettes (joints or spliffs), hollowed-out cigars (blunts), pipes (bowls), or water pipes (bongs).

Teens and Marijuana

 

There is research that now shows the serious consequences for teens using marijuana and how its impact on their mental health.

  • Young people who use marijuana weekly have double the risk of developing depression later in life.
  • Teens aged 12-17 who smoke marijuana weekly are 3 times more likely than nonusers to have suicidal thoughts.
  • Sanna (2008) notes that there is evidence of increased risk of schizophrenia in later years in some teens who smoke marijuana.

 

Teens Brain and Marijuana

 

A teenager’s brain is different to an adult’s brain in many different ways. High school children, for instance, tend to love things and love them intensely. Teens tend to make decisions based on their emotions rather than reason (Sanna, 2008). These processes occur because the limbic system, the area that controls memory and emotions, is highly developed in a teenager, while the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for judgment, is still developing (Anthony and Petronis, 1995). Certain brain centers, such as the limbic system, are highly influenced by THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana. This means the same centers responsible for memory formation, emotion, aggression and fear are also the ones significantly affected by pot (Sanna, 2008).

Why Is Marijuana Dangerous for Teens?

 

  • Teenagers who are regular marijuana users often have shortened attention spans, decreased energy and ambition, lack of judgement, high distractibility and an impaired ability to communicate and relate to others (Youth Marijuana Prevention Initiative, 2002).
  • Teenagers who regularly smoke marijuana often make risky decisions about driving or having sex (Sanna, 2008).
  • Regular marijuana use can lead to breathing problems and greater exposure to cancerous chemicals than from tobacco. In fact Anthony and Petronis (1995) note that one marijuana cigarette can deliver four times more cancer-causing tar than a tobacco cigarette.

 

Are there Long Terms Effects from Using Marijuana?

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (2001) found that long term side effects occur when a teenager uses marijuana frequently over a long period of time. These include:

    Changes in the brain. Marijuana can affect the areas of the brain that play a part in response to stress, motivation, and reward. Marijuana can also affect a teenager’s judgment, attention span and energy and ambition.

    Respiratory problems. People who smoke marijuana have more respiratory problems — such as having more mucus, a chronic cough, and bronchitis (irritated breathing passages).

    Changes in blood pressure. Over time, continued use of marijuana can lead to decreased blood pressure, which may cause dizziness. It also seems to impair the body's ability to fight off infections and some other diseases.

    Emotional problems. Heavy users are more likely to be affected by depression than nonusers. They can also feel more anxiety, have more personality disturbances, and are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia, a severe form of mental illness (Sanna, 2008).

How Can I Quit Using Marijuana?

 

Making the decision to quit is the hardest step in breaking the habit. The key is to develop leverage that will allow you to resist the temptation to use the drug when adversity hits you. If you have been using marijuana for a length of time you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and lack of appetite. Sanna (2008) notes that these withdrawal symptoms do decrease gradually over a 2-3 weeks period when you stop taking the drug.

 

 Counseling may also be a viable component for the effective treatment of marijuana addiction. If you decide to see a therapist you will discuss your motivation levels, tips to build skills to resist drug use, replace drug-using activities with constructive and rewarding nondrug-using activities, and improve problem-solving abilities.

Marijuana addiction is a serious problem, but it's a problem that can be solved. The first step is to recognize the problem—and then seek help!

 References

 

Anthony, J. C, and Petronis, K.R. Early-Onset Drug Use and Risk of Later Drug Problems. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 40 (1995): 9–15.

Sanna, E.J. (2008) Marijuana: Mind-Altering Weed. Mason Crest Publishers: Philadelphia.

 

Youth Marijuana Prevention Initiative: The NCADI Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2002.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). Malignant Neglect: Substance Abuse and America's Schools. New York: Columbia University, 2001.

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