The Effects of Marijuana Use: How to Tell if Your Teen is Abusing Marijuana

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug

Fact:  Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. In a recent federally sponsored survey, 60 percent of high school seniors say they think marijuana is safe, and 23 percent say they’ve used marijuana in the past month—more than those who used alcohol or smoked cigarettes.  A concern for the harmful effects that marijuana has on the developing brain seems to be lost among teenagers.  The marijuana they smoke is significantly more potent than it was in the 1970’s, with far higher levels of THC, the main mind-altering ingredient. The higher the THC levels, the more brain changes there are and the more there is a risk for addiction. How Marijuana Affects TeenagersAdolescence is a sensitive time for brain development. There is scientific evidence of the dangers of marijuana on the development of adolescent brains.  If a teen introduces the abuse of marijuana at that point in their life, it could have consequences for their ability to problem solve, for their memory and for critical thinking in general.  There are a growing number of studies that show regular marijuana use—once a week or more—actually changes the structure of the teenage brain, specifically in the areas dealing with memory and problem solving. It is the absolute worst time to begin using marijuana as the long term effects can last a lifetime. Other serious short term-side effects of marijuana include distorted sense of time, paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. The after-use psychological signs of using marijuana often subside within a few hours. But the residual consequences and effects of marijuana use can last for days, months, even years. Contrary to what many cannabis users will tell you, marijuana is addictive. The addiction to marijuana is evident from the withdrawal symptoms a marijuana user experiences when quitting. Symptoms include irritability, anxiety, insomnia, and craving for the drug. Even among occasional users, many will feel withdrawal symptoms if they can’t get high when they want to. Among heavy users, the rates of dependence are much higher.  Teenage users may develop a dependency on the drug that interferes with family life, school, and social functioning.  Be on the lookout for early warning signs such as school difficulties, problems with memory and concentration, increased aggression or decreased motivation or interest. Most importantly, talk to your child. Find out what’s going on with him. Listen. Learn. If you or someone you know has a problem with marijuana, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted source of drug treatment. ............................ Bryant Abbott, Case Manager 203-937-2309 babbott@tpextendedcare.com