Perhaps we don’t need any more information that drugs are not a good idea for any teen. However, when it comes to marijuana, the jury is still out. This is especially true because more and more states are legalizing the drug and sending the message that marijuana is safe to use.
However, like alcohol, which is also destructive when abused, the regular use of marijuana during adolescence and into adulthood can be harmful. Studies are finding that the harm marijuana use brings is not only harm to the body, but harm to the success of an adolescent’s life. For instance, teenagers who smoke marijuana daily are over 60 percent less likely to complete high school than those who never use. They are also 60 percent less likely to graduate college and seven times more likely to attempt suicide. These are the results of a new study published this month in The Lancet Psychiatry, a British journal of health research.
Researchers gathered data on the frequency of marijuana use among 3,725 students from Australia and New Zealand, and then looked at the students’ stages of developmental up to the age of 30. They found “clear and consistent associations between frequency of cannabis use during adolescence and most young adult outcomes” including the lack of college attendance, completion of high school, and acquiring a college degree. The study was sure to control 53 extenuating factors, including age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, use of other drugs, and mental illness.
The results of the study revealed that the risks for negative outcomes increased with the frequency of cannabis use. In fact, co-leader of the study, Edmund Sillins, commented that the relationship between marijuana use and negative outcomes is significant even at low levels of use (less than monthly), and that “the results suggest that there may not be a threshold where use can be deemed safe” for teens. Essentially, the study found that there are significant relationships between marijuana use and high school graduation, college graduation, suicide attempts, marijuana dependency, and other illicit drug use. Although this may not be a surprise, the study confirms that legal or not, regular marijuana use can be a significant danger for adolescents and bring unexpected consequences. Marijuana has a reputation of being a “safe” compared to other hard drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine; yet, the regular use of marijuana is proving to be dangerous in its own ways.
Furthermore, now that the state of California has legalized the drug, the dangers for teens continue to rise. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s February 2014 report of drug use in Los Angeles County, marijuana was reported as “the primary drug problem” with 27.2% of drug rehab treatment admissions for marijuana addiction or dependency. Plus, more than half (59%) of drug rehab treatment admissions were for teens. Furthermore, marijuana was identified in 30.8% of drug reports analyzed in laboratories. Lastly, marijuana ranked second in the list of illicit drugs reported in the poison control system.
Also, studies show that if an adult started to use marijuana in adolescence, he or she is more likely to develop an addiction. A 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out that 9% of people who use the drug develop an addiction to it. This is compared to 15% of people who become addicted to cocaine and alcohol. And research indicates that the earlier a person begins to use the drug, the more likely he or she will become dependent on it. Also, dependency will develop within two years for 17% of those who began smoking marijuana at ages 14 or 15.
If your teen is regularly using marijuana, discussing the dangers of this drug, including the findings from the study described above, might help convince your teen to end his or her drug use. If your teen needs further convincing, seek the support of a mental health professional.