Teens and Marijuana: Is marijuana a harmless drug?
Marijuana is often considered a “gateway” drug, because its regular use among teens has been shown to contribute to the use of other addictive substances later in life. Teens often ask, however, “Is it really such a bad drug? It’s natural. Can it really hurt me?”
The simple answer is, yes, the use of marijuana has been demonstrated to be harmful for teenagers. Let’s take a closer look.
A survey of 12-17 year olds, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), found the following self-reported behaviors among regular users of the drug:
- Adolescents who use marijuana weekly are 9 times more likely than non-users to experiment with drugs and alcohol
- They are 6 times more likely than non-users to run away from home
- They are 5 times more likely to steal
- They are 4 times more likely to engage in violence
- They are 3 times more likely to have thoughts of suicide
- Additionally, adolescents who use marijuana weekly are more prone than non-users to physically attack other teens
- Teens that regularly use marijuana have been shown to have more social withdrawal, physical complaints, anxiety and depression, and attention problems.
As with smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana can cause lung health issues, such as wheezing and coughing. However, marijuana cigarettes contain three to five times more cancer-causing agents than tobacco cigarettes. Smoking five marijuana cigarettes is roughly the same as smoking an entire pack of tobacco cigarettes.
Perhaps the greater cause for concern is the effect marijuana has on the still-developing brains of teenage users. The use of marijuana among teens has been shown to cause behavioral changes, cognitive impairment, and mental health problems. Even those in favor of legalizing the drug argue that the use of the drug is harmful for teens. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said, “One can argue before a young person reaches full brain development in their early 20’s they should not use or have legal access to marijuana.” (The Ledger, Lakeland Florida, January 3, 2005)
The use of marijuana among teenagers is clearly harmful on many levels. The use of marijuana among teens has been shown to increase participation in risky behaviors, impair judgment and reaction times while driving, leading to crashes, impair academic performance, and a host of other problems. Beyond that, elements of the drug remain in the body for a days, weeks, or months after smoking it, creating long-term health problems that do not simply go away.
Marijuana is harmful. The high is not worth the consequences.