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Marijuana Use in Teens & Young Adults: 3 Key Points for Family Members

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How to talk to teens about drugsMany families will find themselves at some point engaged in a conversation with their teenagers and young adults about marijuana. Often, parents and other loved ones are told by their younger relatives multiple reasons why smoking “pot” is OK. “It’s not that bad for me”, “Everyone is doing it”, “It is better than drinking”, “It is legal now” and the infamous “You did it when you were young.”

So how are concerned family members to respond to these comments?  The first step is to understand the current facts about cannabis use. A good summary of the current state of knowledge is contained in a recent article here.

There are 3 key points from the article that can be helpful for you in talking with your teenager or young adult that is using or thinking of using cannabis.

1. Cannabis use is becoming ever more common with young people, and they are starting to use at earlier and earlier ages.  

Teens smoking

With the societal shift in attitude towards cannabis use, many people are given a false impression that smoking marijuana is harmless.

Research studies have proven that the younger a person starts using a substance, the more likely they are to develop an addiction to it.

Also with the more widespread use of cannabis, the rates of cannabis addiction and cannabis related motor vehicle accidents are on the rise.

2. The cannabis of old is not the same as the cannabis of today.  

Producers are increasing the potency of marijuana to have a stronger effect. This will only accelerate as cannabis grows into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Just think about what smoking tobacco was like before “big tobacco” brought the science of chemistry and marketing to full effect. Synthetic cannaboids are on the rise and are more potent than ever. We are only now starting to understand how these new formulations affect the human brain, but we already know that they are increasing the rates of addiction and other medical complications of use.

3. The teenage and young adult brain are very different from a fully matured human brain. 

Young people’s brains are still undergoing a significant amount of maturation. The nerve cells in the brain are still growing, being moved around, and changing connections at an amazing rate. Brains are not static organs. They change in response to stresses and certainly to foreign chemicals.

Addiction and loved ones

We are now learning that cannabis, and especially synthetic cannaboids, have a profound effect on the neuronal changes that are happening in the young person’s brain. The short term consequences are decreased motivation, apathy, decrease in concentration and memory and potentially serious psychiatric disorders. However, the long term effects are still unclear. We do know that cannabis impedes the maturation process in young brains. 

So when you are talking to your young loved ones about marijuana remember these 3 points:

  1. The younger you start the more likely you are to become addicted.
  2. Cannabis is more powerful today than ever. 
  3. Pot keeps your brain from “growing” normally. 
Hopefully, these will give them second thoughts about lighting up.