Why do young people use marijuana? The legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes in various parts of the world has undoubtedly hastened a shift in public perceptions about the drug. Just a few short decades ago, cannabis abuse among youths was strongly discouraged.
Teens were warned of the inevitability of falling into a life of crime if they smoked cannabis. They were told that they were in danger of frying their brains, or of opening up the gateway to more serious addictions.
Today, the messaging they get is very different. Teenagers scrolling through their social media feeds are exposed to multiple messages that range from “Marijuana is not as bad as cigarettes” to “Marijuana is good for you”. When you consider the challenges that face young people today and add in this kind of feedback about cannabis, it is not difficult to see why teenagers smoke so much weed.
Before we get into specific reasons young people use marijuana, let’s answer the question on many people’s minds. Is marijuana as good as it’s cracked up to be in modern social media, or where the parents and teachers of days gone by the right to be concerned?
Is Marijuana Dangerous?
Medical cannabis aside, there are some reasons to be concerned about the use of marijuana in young people. Some factors to consider are the sheer numbers of marijuana strains that are produced these days.
Also, there is the fact that some marijuana contains up to 200 times the THC levels of typical weed in days gone by. Furthermore, consider that as the teenage brain develops, it is in a constant state of flux. For some teens, smoking weed can be the equivalent of throwing a match into a chemical soup that is already undergoing complex reactions.
Some of the primary risks of cannabis use include the following:
Increased risk of addiction as an adult
Not only are teens who smoke weed at risk of becoming addicted to the weed, but they are also at higher risk of becoming addicted to other, potentially more harmful substances during adulthood.
Increased risk of respiratory complaints
Most teens who use marijuana ingest it by smoking it. Contrary to what many people believe, marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens and toxins present in cigarette smoke. This leads to an increased risk of some cancers, as well as bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
Changes to brain function
Some teens who use marijuana even a single time can experience psychiatric problems. These include psychosis (losing touch with reality) and delusions (potentially dangerous false beliefs). Also, cannabis abuse among youths can lead to sensory challenges, impaired cognitive functioning, and loss of coordination.
Related article: Clearing the Smoke on Marijuana: Is It Harmless After All?
Potential for high-risk behaviour
To begin with, many teenagers have trouble with impulse control. Worse, smoking weed can exacerbate this problem, particularly if marijuana is used in conjunction with alcohol. This can lead to participation in potentially dangerous activities, such as driving under the influence and having unprotected sex.
What About Medical Marijuana?
“What about medical cannabis?” is the rallying cry of many people who argue in favour of recreational marijuana use. And this is a valid question. There are people who may derive some benefit from moderate use of marijuana, without necessarily having to get a medical prescription for it.
But these are adults, whose brains are fully developed. And it should be noted that there are risk factors that they should be aware of as well.
When it comes to the use of medical marijuana, it is important to note the following:
- There are only a few strains of medical marijuana that have been developed and produced for the treatment of specific conditions and symptoms
- Medical marijuana is generally not recommended for use in children and teens
- Medical marijuana is like any other medication: when used in incorrect doses, or when used by someone for whom it is not prescribed, it can be very dangerous.
Top Reasons Why Teens Use Marijuana
As a preventative and educational measure, it is helpful to know about some of the biggest reasons young people use marijuana. Everyone is unique. We all have our reasons for doing the things we do, and every case of teenage marijuana use should be examined on its own merits.
Teenage Anxiety and depression are on the rise. Up to a third of teens show symptoms of depression, and the majority of these do not seek help because they fear the stigma of mental illness.
What makes teenage mental illness particularly troublesome is that it is often written off as “typical teenage behaviour”. Teens may try to numb their pain by using marijuana. Contrary to what they expect, marijuana actually exacerbates their symptoms.
Bullying of teenagers is a tragic reality that has been with us for as long as we’ve had teenagers. The nature of the bullying evolves with the times. Recent years have seen a sharp rise in cyberbullying, which has cost lives. Teenage victims of bullying who feel that they don’t have anyone to talk to may resort to smoking weed.
Adolescence is an age of intense curiosity and experimentation, which is fine as long as it is safe. A simple reason teens use marijuana is simply that they want to know what it is like.
Unfortunately, this does not always stop with marijuana. If left unchecked, some teens will go on to experiment with far more dangerous substances.
By the time someone reaches adolescence, their primary influences are peers rather than parents. Time and time again, teenagers explain erratic or dangerous behaviour by saying, “Well, everyone else is doing it…”.
Cannabis use among youths is no exception. A lot of teenagers will smoke weed just because their friends are. There is an element of social acceptance of this. Hence, young people may fear social ostracization if they decline.
Boredom is a normal part of life, especially for children and teenagers. Some childhood development experts are of the belief that the youth of today are under immense pressure to always be busy.
As a result, they may not develop the skills to cope when they are not. And a lot of them will start experimenting with marijuana in order to fill their time.
What Can Be Done About It?
Knowing the reasons young people use marijuana is a critical first step in developing plans to counteract this. Some steps we can take to help our teenage community members include the following:
- Ensure that teens have open lines of communication with parents and guardians. This way, they can talk about things that are troubling them. They can do this without fear of judgment or repercussion
- Ensure that children and teenagers have access to mental health services
- Ensure that children and teenagers are educated about the safe use of the Internet. Hence, they have the ability to report incidents of bullying safely, and that such reports are appropriately handled
- Educate teenagers about the dangers of marijuana and other substances. More importantly, provide them with safe ways to satisfy their curious natures
- Be aware of the signs of marijuana abuse in your teenage children. Also, be prepared to take action on helping them through addiction recovery if needed
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
No matter how hard parents and teachers try to steer their children away from drugs and alcohol, the sad reality is that cannabis use among youths will sometimes lead to addiction. The sooner addicted teens get help, the better.
By being put into a marijuana addiction treatment program as early as possible, teens can learn the skills and techniques they will need to cope with the stresses of life and work towards a promising future.
At 1000 Islands Addiction Rehab & Treatment Centre, we provide a safe place for teens to overcome their addictions and start their adult lives on the right footing. We also provide support for loved ones, and guidance through the process of mending damaged family relationships. To get started, call us at 855-601-0555.
Related article: How to Recognize Marijuana Addiction