Marijuana use amongst teens is not uncommon. In fact, 40% of teens in high school have tried marijuana at least once. Cannabis use has long been a topic in the press. In Washington state, measure Initiative-502 calls to legalize marijuana and a local commercial includes a mother discussing her reasons for supporting the measure. The purpose of this blog is not to support or disapprove of marijuana use, but to educate on some of the harmful effects marijuana can have on teens.
In a previous post we discussed marijuana and warning signs of substance abuse for parents to watch out for. Here I want to discuss some of the behavior changes that go along with marijuana use.
Motivation: Marijuana is a depressant. It gives a high that leads to euphoria, but also greatly decreases a person’s motivation to do work. For teens, this can translate into lack of motivation to go to school, look for employment, study for the SAT or fill out college applications.
Concentration: A teen who uses marijuana may also find it very challenging to concentrate. I have teens tell me they use marijuana to help with anxiety and to calm their nerves, but feeling calm during an exam won’t help if they haven’t been able to concentrate on studying the material because they were high.
Sleep: Marijuana disrupts normal sleep cycles. Teens often report that using marijuana helps them go to sleep, but the sleep they are getting is not the restful deep sleep (or REM) that is needed to help us feel refreshed and able to concentrate on the day ahead.
In addition to the behavior changes listed, marijuana can lead to a criminal record (if caught with it in their possession), can lead to hanging out with friends who may use more dangerous drugs, has harmful effects on lungs and breathing, and can increase appetite possibly leading to increases in weight.
So the next time you and your teen watch a movie that references marijuana or hear an ad for legalization take a moment to consider the drawbacks of marijuana use.
If you are at all concerned that your teen is using, tell your teen about your concerns and talk to their health care provider.