Talking to Teens About Marijuana

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to try marijuana, and some go on to use it regularly. Teenagers today are more likely to use marijuana than they are to use tobacco, even though it’s illegal for minors to use marijuana in every state. People can smoke it, consume it, or apply tinctures to the skin to use marijuana. The marijuana plants growing today are different from ones grown in the past: Today’s plants may contain two or three times the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that plants contained years ago. This makes the plants grown currently much stronger, since they contain more of the chemical that makes people high.

Parents and Prevention

Parents play an important role in educating teenagers about the dangers of marijuana. Start talking to kids about marijuana and other drugs when they’re young so that when they become teenagers, they’ll be ready to make healthy and informed choices about drug use. Teenagers are less likely to use marijuana if they know they can talk to their parents about it.

  • Ask kids what they have heard about marijuana, and listen closely to their answers.
  • Correct any misperceptions about marijuana.
  • Provide facts about marijuana risks and what can happen after using it.
  • If parents have experience with marijuana, it may help to share personal experiences. Don’t minimize the dangers to kids; share any negative consequences experienced.
  • Mention that the brain is still developing until people are at least 20 years old, so teenagers are at a higher risk of harm from marijuana use.


Effects of Marijuana

It’s common for teenagers to think that marijuana is safer than other drugs. Make sure teenagers know that marijuana can be addictive and it’s not harmless. Research shows that marijuana has serious physical, emotional, and cognitive health risks. Marijuana can also be a gateway drug, which means that people start using marijuana and then go on to use other drugs.

  • Short-term use can cause school problems, memory problems, aggression, risky sexual decisions, and more.
  • Long-term use can cause lung damage and cancer, decreased motivation, lower intelligence, and mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia.


Signs of Marijuana Use

If marijuana use is suspected, watch the person’s behavior closely for clues. Many people will exhibit common signs and behaviors when they are using marijuana. Watch for:

  • Silly antics that seem out of character
  • Use of new words or unfamiliar phrases
  • Increased irritability
  • Sleepiness at unusual times
  • Strange urges to eat large amounts of food
  • Unusual thirst
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Difficulty remembering things that happened recently
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Spending time with new friends
  • Carrying paraphernalia such as rolling papers, pipes, and lighters
  • Stealing money
  • Suddenly having money with no accounting for it


Dangers of Marijuana Use and Driving

Using marijuana impairs judgment, reduces reaction time, and decreases motor coordination. Even though driving seems like an automatic process, the brain is actively involved in every part of driving, so using marijuana can result in impaired driving ability.

  • Marijuana is the most common illicit drug found in the blood of drivers involved in car crashes.
  • Some research indicates that the risk of a vehicle crash rises significantly after using marijuana.
  • The combination of alcohol and marijuana is especially dangerous when operating a motor vehicle.
  • State laws vary regarding marijuana impairment, DUI, and marijuana charges while operating a motor vehicle.
  • The safest option is to avoid all alcohol and drugs when driving.


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