What to know about teens and marijuana use

3:09 PM, Apr 18, 2019

With recreational marijuana now legal in Michigan if you’re 21 years old, it could be easier for teens to get their hands on it, even though it is illegal for them to use it.

Some parents may be worried about their teens being around marijuana while others may not. However, all parents should keep the risks in mind, as marijuana is a safety issue.

“Recent research has shown that even marijuana may have more harmful physical, mental, and psychomotor effects than first believed, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana users can become psychologically dependent, and therefore addicted,” according to the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

Addiction risk

While most people who use marijuana will not become addicted, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, using it repeatedly can lead to something called marijuana use disorder – and addiction is the most severe form.

“The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs,” NIDA says.

This is problematic for teens because they are more prone to marijuana addiction than adults. One study found that teens who used marijuana before age 18 were up to seven times more likely to develop an addiction than people in their 20s, according to a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal.

THC levels

The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly called THC. Both joints and edibles – foods that have marijuana in them – have THC. The amount of marijuana in joints is easier to control than edibles because any amount can be added when combining marijuana with food.

Teens may be more likely to take edibles than to smoke because there is no smell, so their use is easier to hide, and edibles are more appetizing. They’re also adding marijuana extracts to their vape pens which can be very dangerous as vaping marijuana is odorless and high potency.

“The most important factor to remember, however, is that THC remains the active ingredient in both methods of marijuana intake – carrying with it the same psychoactive qualities and potentially adverse consequences,” according to drugabuse.com.

Brain development

Heavy marijuana use can hurt brain development, according to research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. The problem is intensified in young people, and researchers found that quitting marijuana did not fully restore cognitive function in users that had started young.

Researchers suggest that this means heavy marijuana use causes brain damage in adolescents, particularly worrying because brains develop well into people’s 20s, according to research in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


Marijuana use is connected to poor school performance because it affects memory, attention and learning skills, according to NIDA.

Additionally, young people who use marijuana are more likely to drop out of school, according to a study publishing in Health Economics journal. Although the same can be said for teens who smoke cigarettes, researchers said that means the influence of parents and peers are important – and there is still an association between smoking marijuana and dropping out of school.

“In all observed data from our study and many other studies, youth who use marijuana have greater risk factors for negative behaviors and outcomes including negative peer associations, weak social bonds, low aspirations, and increased deviant behaviors,” the researchers write.

Talk to your teens

Parents are vital when it comes to whether their teens use marijuana, or any kind of drugs. They can support positive behaviors by offering encouragement, setting limits, working together to problem solve, monitoring their children’s whereabouts and staying positively involved, according to the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority.

If you notice signs of alcohol or substance use in your teen, talk to someone or call the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority’s 24/7 helpline at 800-241-4949 or visit dwmha.com for more information on prevention, treatment and recovery services.

Here to talk. Here to help.

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