Despite recent legalization initiatives, studies of the effects on teen marijuana use are occasionally published, asserting that the drug is more toxic than most would believe. Additionally, it seems that younger populations are the most susceptible to any negative effects of marijuana, which is concerning due to the fact that adolescents and teens are still developing physically and neurologically.
This begs the question: What kind of damaging effect is teen marijuana use having in youth populations?
Marijuana Legalization and Teen Marijuana Use
Until relatively recently, marijuana has been an illicit substance in the US, with possession, use, or distribution of the substance criminally punishable. And yet despite the illegality of the drug, marijuana continued to be one of the most common drugs on the black market with pretty much anyone able to find and buy the drug from someone within or not far outside of their neighborhood.
However, when the medicinal value of marijuana began to outweigh its dangers, a number of states began to legalize marijuana, but explicitly for medicinal purposes; meanwhile, anyone who was found to own, use, or distribute marijuana without being authorized for medicinal reasons was in violation of the medicinal marijuana laws.
In the past decade, marijuana legalization has gained much momentum; there are currently 23 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use as well as four states and Washington, DC, that have legalized marijuana even for recreational purposes. And there’s expected to be more states that will follow suit in the months and years to come.
Meanwhile, there are some who have expressed concern that marijuana legalization will make the drug even more accessible to adolescents and teens, which concerns them due to the studies that have identified a number of harmful effects of teen marijuana use.
Can Marijuana Harm the Developing Teenage Brain?
Of all the illicit substances that exist—which doesn’t include alcohol or tobacco—marijuana is the most widely used in every age group. However, adolescents and teens are twice as likely to smoke marijuana than adults, which is why many of the studies on the effects of teen marijuana use has focused on the effects on teenagers in particular.
It seems that there’s a catch-22 with marijuana. A substance in marijuana called cannabidiol is what gives the drug its therapeutic, medicinal value, especially useful to those who suffer from cancer, chronic pain, or conditions involving seizure; but the psychoactive ingredient—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—isn’t without its dangers.
A relatively new study has highlighted a potential causal relationship between marijuana use and decreased memory, attention span, learning, and decision-making ability. While these are effects that are often attached to the “high” users get from marijuana, studies show that these effects persist until long after the effects of the marijuana have worn off.
Moreover, similar studies have drawn a parallel between teenage and young-adult marijuana use and such characteristics as poor academic performance, higher rates of unemployment and dependence on government assistance or welfare, higher rates of school dropout, and an overall lower satisfaction with life.
Even so, critics have suggested that rather than these parallels being indicative of the negative effects of marijuana on youths, these could actually be effects that are derived from the characteristics of a lifestyle that revolves around teen marijuana use, including peer-influenced problem behavior and the resultant emotional distress.
In other words, rather than being the cause of the aforementioned problems, many believe that teen marijuana use is one of a cluster of factors that can result in such outcomes.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
While these finding are compelling, a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Rutgers University have found evidence to the contrary. Specifically, this study has found that any physical or psychological effects that occur among individuals who used marijuana during their teen years can be attributed to other sources rather than to their prior marijuana use.
In many cases, the researchers actually found no discernable difference between those who used marijuana in their teenage years and those who didn’t, lending further credence to the idea that when there are physical or psychological differences between people who did and didn’t use marijuana during their teenage years, the differences are due to some variable other than the teen marijuana use.
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Although the most up-to-date findings are suggesting that the use of marijuana during one’s teen years can’t be identified as the direct cause of any late-life abnormalities, that’s not to say that there aren’t dangers. Mind-altering substances have the potential to cause a number of profound changes, and some of those changes cannot be reversed.
Moreover, the majority of mind-altering substances are incredibly addictive and potentially lethal. If you or someone you love would like to learn more about the effects of marijuana use or addiction treatment, call Drug Treatment Center Finder at 855-619-8070 today. We’re available anytime, day or night, to help you or your loved one get on the path of life and lasting happiness.