What to know about your teen and marijuana

Posted at 4:17 PM, May 24, 2016

Are you a parent who is concerned your teen may be using marijuana? There are several reasons to keep an eye out for recreational use, which is risky for developing adolescents.

Almost half of high school seniors have used marijuana in their lifetimes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. About 1 in 5 says they have used marijuana in the past month.

“Some teens believe marijuana isn’t harmful because it is ‘natural,’” NIDA writes on its website. “But not all natural plants are good for you — take tobacco, for example.”

When teens use marijuana, they may experience a variety of issues and problems, including:

Brain development
The brains of young people develop rapidly compared to adults, and abusing various substances negatively effects that development. In a review of studies on the effects of alcohol and substance use in teens, researchers found adolescents’ mental abilities lessened after using marijuana.

Recent data suggests pot use is linked to long-term cognitive problems. It shows adolescents who regularly smoke perform poorer on learning tests, visual scanning and more.



Lung health
Marijuana is most commonly smoked, and that can damage your teen’s lungs. The American Lung Association says any smoke is unsafe, no matter its source, and marijuana smokers tend to inhale more deeply compared to cigarette smokers and hold the smoke in longer, leading “to a greater exposure per breath to tar.”

“Smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung,” according to the ALA. “Research shows that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis and marijuana smoke has been shown to injure the cell linings of the large airways, which could explain why smoking marijuana leads to symptoms such as chronic cough, phlegm production, wheeze and acute bronchitis.”

Additionally, the ALA says smoking marijuana can damage the immune system, meaning your teen’s body will have a difficult time fighting illness and disease.

Dangerous driving
While there are arguments over whether marijuana use leads to impaired driving, there is evidence it diminishes some motor skills (the ability for a teen to act and react). One study found the higher the dose of tetrahydrocannabinol — commonly called THC, the main ingredient in a marijuana plant — the greater the impairment.

Because car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they should stay as alert as possible when on the road.

Talk to your teen
The changing laws about marijuana in the United States may lead to confusion, so discuss the drug with your teen. Psychologist Joan Simeo Munson says no matter your stance on legalization, help your children understand the effects of marijuana and that it’s illegal in all 50 states for people under the age of 21 to use it.

“When you discuss any difficult topic with your child, the best place to begin is educating them with the best facts and information you can find,” Munson writes for “Beginning a web search with your child to explore what cannabis is and its effects on the body can be a great place to start.”

If teens need help giving up marijuana, there are treatment options aimed at their age group. Investigate the best choice for your teen and you.