A teenager caught using marijuana may respond with, “What’s the big deal? It’s legal in some places now, it shouldn’t be an issue,” or, “A lot of other people at school are doing it.” A teen may even goad parents with, “Go on and tell me how it is bad for my health. Find me the proof.” Well you’re welcome mother, father, below are formidable facts about marijuana damage to the body.
The controversial legalization of marijuana in certain states has led to many wondering just how dangerous the drug really is. Substance using teens may surmise taking a puff or two is harmless. The factor not taken into account is partaking with one’s brain still in the vulnerable growing stages. Recent research shows marijuana, even in controlled amounts can affect the developing brain in negative ways.
Around 44 percent of 12th graders used marijuana in 2015, according to findings by the Monitoring the Future survey. Teenagers may not be fully aware of how marijuana affects brain function to begin with. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA, breaks down the process of marijuana use throughout the body for teens and adults to understand.
Marijuana contains the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which, “Quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries it to organs throughout the body, including the brain,” NIDA explains. THC leeches itself to the communications system in the brain along with cannabinoid receptors, warping the reward system in the brain.
The reward system releases, “Dopamine, in the brain’s reward centers, creating the pleasurable feelings or ‘high.’” Students mistake this for a good thing, but the continued release of dopamine causes the body to need more to feel good. Eventually, the teenager is leaning on weed or using other drugs as well to even get into or sustain a good mood, unable to chemically feel pleasure without said substance.
Teenagers rarely weigh the long-term effects of any decision, let alone substance use. Regardless of the rhyme or reason, one study finds excessive marijuana use in teens leads to a decline in brain function as they grow up.
Madeline H. Meier, Ph.D., and other researchers reviewed more than 1,000 participants ranging in age from 13 to 38, before and after cannabis use. Participants who frequently used cannabis saw a six point decrease in IQ compared with participants who did not use.Something to chew on for the teen aiming for college; there are plenty other harmless herbs for relaxation.
The greatest decline in IQ was found in participants with the greatest use. While some participants were able to recover from the brain damage after they stopped using, for most,“Cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users,” the study finds.
Another study, authored by Rebecca Kuepper and other researchers, finds frequent cannabis use to increase risk of psychosis. The study identified, “Cannabis as an environmental risk factor, impacting on risk of psychosis by increasing the risk of incident psychotic experiences,” also increasing the chance of persistent psychotic experiences. Over the span of three and a half years, the incident rate of psychotic symptoms was 11 percent greater in participants who abused cannabis.
The use of any substance holds consequences to those who continue to use it habitually. Teenagers need to be equipped with knowledge on the dangers of substance abuse, before it is too late.
The Sovereign Health Group Rancho San Diego facility offers personalized treatment plans for children ages 12 to 17 struggling with mental, behavioral and substance abuse issues. The treatment program treats all co-occurring conditions and includes the skills necessary for patients to continue a healthy life after treatment. To learn more about our programs please call our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Nick Adams, Sovereign Health Group writer