More and more states are seeking to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Alongside this, the perceived danger of adolescent marijuana use has started dropping. Teens figure because it’s being legalized, it must not have many negative effects for young people. More education on the peril of adolescent marijuana use is needed in schools to combat this idea. Marijuana use in adolescence can lead to permanent brain damage in areas related to learning, reasoning, and paying attention; those are just long-term consequences.
How adolescent marijuana use can harm your child
Brain damage is a long-term consequence of adolescent marijuana use, but a plethora of short-term consequences also exist. When using marijuana, your coordination and judgement are affected almost immediately. Also, contrary to popular belief, marijuana can lead to addiction. Around 1 in 6 adults who have frequently used marijuana since their teen years develop a dependence or addiction to it.
A few ways adolescent marijuana use can negatively impact your child:
Memory and Learning. Our brain has a section of it called the hippocampus; it deals with learning, retaining, and recalling information. Marijuana directly messes with the hippocampus. Because it’s still forming when you’re young, adolescent marijuana use can cause a distortion in it, making permanent damages to memory, attention span, and IQ.
Coordination. A lot of teens believe marijuana is safe to use and drive. This is a dangerous idea that happens to be extremely wrong. The part of our brain which controls balance and coordination is called the cerebellum; the part that controls movement is the basal ganglia. Both of these are directly affected by marijuana, which most definitely impairs a driver.
Judgement. Though very different from alcohol, marijuana affects judgement. The frontal cortex of the brain–associated with decision making–is directly affected by marijuana. This can cause a person to incorrectly perceive danger in a situation, leading to risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or getting into a car with someone unfit to do so.
Dependence or Addiction. Like many other substances or behaviors, adolescent marijuana use can lead to a dependence or addiction to it. This is usually a result of using for an extended amount of time (for example, daily use for 5 years). The brain can become dependent on the effects of marijuana; when you take that away, the brain reacts negatively. This creates withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, extreme weight loss, and more.
So while states are legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, parents of adolescents need to be weary of usage early on.