While the debate as to the extent that marijuana damages a teenage user’s developing brain rages on (with many studies in the affirmative), there is no doubt that the effects of addiction can have catastrophic effects on the quality of life of not only the addict, but his or her family and friends as well.
Think it’s only a problem for a few scattered outliers? The National Institute of Drug Abuse doesn’t agree. They found that nearly 11% of high school sophomores and over 32% of high school seniors had abused marijuana in the previous year. What exactly does teenage marijuana use and addiction look like? Here’s a sampling of marijuana side effects and the damage it does.
Marijuana and Depression
It may come as a surprise to learn that the brain doesn’t reach full development until the mid-20s. Introducing casual or frequent marijuana use during this period of growth and maturation can have detrimental effects on an adolescent’s ability to effectively handle emotions.
It’s hard enough being a teenager under the best of circumstances. Mix in the effects of smoking marijuana can result in depression, anxiety, and even psychosis. Teenage depression is a serious issue.
Think of it like this. A brain under construction needs the best materials in order to reach its full potential. The harm caused by frequent marijuana use during this phase can be permanent. We know that teens who regularly use marijuana often have lower grades in school (and higher dropout rates) than their drug-free counterparts.
Underperforming can cause a lot of fear and anxiety. Which in turn can lead to self-medication. Which often leads to depression…you get the idea. The link between marijuana and depression is real.
Marijuana and Anxiety
Anxiety is closely related to depression. Adolescents have an abundance of reasons to feel anxious. Growing up is often difficult and confusing. Teens who experience anxiety for prolonged periods of time often become depressed (and vice versa).
Anxiety leaves a teenager feeling tense and restless. This overwhelming sense of worry makes focusing on daily activities strenuous. Given these conditions, it’s easy to see why a child might be tempted to light up a joint and try to puff away their stress. If only it were so simple.
As mentioned in regard to depression, a self-medicating plan that includes marijuana is one with high odds to make the problems worse. It’s important for adolescents to learn how to treat anxiety without drugs or alcohol.
As if the high risk of anxiety and depression weren’t to make teens shy away from marijuana use, long-term pot-smokers might consider impaired judgment to be a good reason to not light up. Marijuana side effects are no laughing matter.
A recent USA Today survey of 2,800 teen drivers revealed that a full one-third didn’t think it was illegal to drive while smoking marijuana in states that allow recreational use. Many others don’t see it as a dangerous activity. Both conclusions are erroneous.
One of the safety experts who conducted the survey reminds parents that marijuana negatively affects coordination, reaction time, and judgement. Not a condition conducive to arriving at your destination safe and sound. Combine this with the already suspect ability to reason inherent in teens, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Even if you decide to throw out all the negative points made previously, the unavoidable fact is that one out of every six teens who use marijuana will develop an addiction. Whether the substance is alcohol, heroin, opioids, or weed (just to name a few), the end result is the same.
Addiction ruins relationships, destroys lives, and leaves the addict a shell of their former self. Everything is reduced to scrounging up money to buy the next hit. No parent wants this for their child. The sooner you step in, the better the chance your child will get their life back on track.
The Bottom Line
To those who believe marijuana is a harmless habit, or think that it shouldn’t even be called a drug, think again. Just because cannabis use has gained social (and legal) acceptance over the last several years doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Alcohol is legal, and we all know the dangers of underage drinking. If you are the parent of a child with a marijuana addiction, and you don’t want to sit on the sidelines and see where that road leads, we can help.
Family First Adolescent Services specializes in treating mental health and substance use disorders in adolescents. With a focus on family care, we treat marijuana addiction and the underlying causes that led to the addiction in the first place.
Our clinical model uses the most up-to-date mental health practices, such as the NeuroAffective Relational Model (NARM). We place an emphasis on education and family dynamics so that your child can live a healthy and fulfilling life.