Marijuana and Teens – Dangerous and Addictive – Parents Beware

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on April 18, 2012

Far too many are misinformed about the dangers of marijuana and its addictive nature. It is this lack of information that may play a role in the ever growing tolerance of parents, when their teenagers are using marijuana.  Recent Rasmussen report: 47% think marijuana should be legalized, 42% report their desire to keep it illegal, and 10% are undecided. A recent National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report shows that for the first time since the late 1970’s more 12th graders are smoking marijuana than cigarettes and marijuana is stronger today then it was back then.  In addition, results from the Monitoring The Future Survey shows that disapproval of marijuana use declined among 10th graders and perceived risk of marijuana use declined among 8th and 10th graders. This is a concern because it is the changes in beliefs and attitudes which often drives changes in drug use. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there was a significant increase among youth aged 12-17 using marijuana. These are just but a few reports I mention in an effort to point out to parents how tolerant we as a society have become about marijuana use. Marijuana is considered the most commonly used and abused illicit drug in the United States.

Talking Points/Information With The Intent To Educate:

  • What Is Marijuana: Marijuana is derived from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • Addiction: Marijuana addiction for the youth population is a growing risk as society becomes more tolerant. I have seen in front of my eyes as a family therapist for 19 years the negative impact on youth who use marijuana, its addictive nature, and the negative effects its use has on the family system. Research clearly shows that marijuana can cause problems in one’s daily life and/or exacerbate an already existing problem. Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to compulsive drug seeking which is in essence addiction, despite the harmful effects it has on functioning in all contexts of one’s life; family, recreational activities, school, work.
  • Legalization- Is Marijuana Safe? Does It Possess Medicinal Properties: Legalization and the growing acceptance (e.g., medical purposes) leads youth to view it as safe. It is NOT safe. Marijuana is already easily accessible. Opening up our culture to accessibility and tolerance – this is not a benefit for our children. Marijuana is harmful for our youth culture affecting who they are and will be. This of course leads us to question; what about those that consider marijuana has medicinal properties? Scientists explain that the cannabis plant does indeed contain ingredients with medicinal potential, for example; stimulating appetite, controlling nausea, relieving pain, and decreasing ocular pressure. Therefore there are cannabinoid based medications which are FDA approved. Scientists continue to investigate the medicinal properties of THC and other cannabinoids in an effort to evaluate and develop products to help those who are suffering from a wide range of medical conditions, while avoiding the negative effects of smoking marijuana. The fact that good can come for those patients who are in need is not an indicator that marijuana is safe nor should it be accepted by parents as “just being a kid” when their kid is using.
  • Mental Health: Various studies show a connection between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Do note: research still infers that it is not clear whether marijuana use causes mental problems or exacerbates them. There is also a possibility that marijuana use is an attempt to self-medicate symptoms that already exist.
  • The Brain And Marijuana: Marijuana interferes with the cognitive processes of a young person’s developing brain. Research shows that marijuana interferes with cannabinoid receptors in areas of the brain crucial to several of one’s cognitive functioning. For an example, the amygdala (emotional control), hippocampus (memory), and the cerebellum (movement) are especially affected. Marijuana intoxication can cause distorted perceptions, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, problems with learning and memory, and impaired coordination. Someone who smokes marijuana every day most likely is functioning at a suboptimal intellectual level all of the time.
  • Educate Your Children: Begin educating your children when they are young and through their growing years of the importance of not using drugs, the reason why, and the negative short term and long term personal and relational  affects drug use has. It is of great importance for parents to stand up and advocate for their children by communicating with them about this very important topic. Help your children be the child and the adult they can be – the best version of themselves. Do not turn a blind eye and accept marijuana use because “so many kids are using”. The more accepting we as parents become, the more accepting we as parents become and the more accepting our children and their children, and their children’s children become.
  • Parents Who Used and/or Use: There are many parents who experimented with marijuana use when they were in their teens and/or 20’s. There are also parents who currently take marijuana. Those parents often report that they feel hypocritical educating their children that they should not use. Yet, it still remains of great relevance that those parents do educate their children on why not to use. All parents, regardless of their history or present behaviors still have an obligation to educate their children on what is the best way to be, do they not? Certainly it would be ideal if we were a sober society and parents did not have to experience such a bind. Perhaps, if you are an adult user,  take this as an opportunity to stop using. Whether you stop using or do not stop, whether you experimented when you were young or did not, the fact still remains that marijuana use is a danger to our youth and it is addictive for far too many. Therefore, do the right thing and help your children to understand why not using and having healthier options to “feel good” is better on all levels. Educate by example and provide healthy life outlets.
  • Why Use Marijuana: People take marijuana for the same reason they take other drugs, it makes them feel good. Compounds in marijuana bind to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, triggering dopamine release which is what results in a high. The good feeling described from using is tied to the dopamine-based reward system in the brain’s nucleus accumbens region. Long term use of marijuana inhibits the brain’s natural cannabinoids.
  • Abstinence And Withdrawal Symptoms Of Long Term Users: Long term use increases the amount of the drug that users need to reach the same high, which leads users to take more and more . . . Research has shown that long term users report that they feel “off” and dysphoric if they haven’t recently taken marijuana. Reports of long-term marijuana abusers who try to quit report withdrawal symptoms including: drug craving, anxiety, irritability, decreased appetite, sleeplessness. All of these factors makes it difficult to remain abstinent. Research shows that these symptoms begin approximately 1 day following abstinence and peaks at 2-3 days. For many the symptoms subside with 2 weeks following drug cessation.
  • Gate Way Drug: Studies show that people exposed to marijuana as young teens are more likely to become dependent on other drugs, such as cocaine, heroine, and painkillers. Some consider marijuana a gate way drug.
  • Medical Health: A) Heart: Research shows that marijuana increases the heart rate by 20-100 % soon after smoking. This can last up to 3 hours. Due to increased heart rate, as well as marijuana having effects on heart rhythms causing palpitations, the increase risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug one would think is enough information for a parent and a child to say; “no marijuana for me”. But, how many people are armed with this information? B) Lungs: Many studies have shown that marijuana smoke contains 50-70 % more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.

Note: If you are a parent, discuss this blog article with your child. Share this article, let us spread the word and save our youth culture of today and their adulthood of tomorrow.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Concerned parent May 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

Hi.
Usually, when there is an article like yours that says: “research has shown” or, “studies have said”, there are names of doctors or reaserchers or even universities, where these researches have been conducted. I believe you that marijuana is harmful, but where did you get your information from? I cant find any article by a doctor or anyone on the internet or in books, that has done research on this issue. I want to prove to our kids that its bad, but I cant.
Please help.
thanks,
concerned parent

Reply

Dr. Karen Ruskin May 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Dear Concerned Parent,
Thank you for your interest in my blog article and your desire to share it with your children. You are not alone in feeling as a parent that just your words to your kids is not enough to help them hold the philosophy of saying NO to marijuana. I urge parents to discuss their opinion and hear their children’s opinion in a dialogue ‘with’ their children not ‘at’ their children. With that in mind, I am happy to provide you with the added materials so you can feel armed with information. Provided are several links so you can state who provided the research in direct connection to the documentation in this blog, as well as additional reading material you may find helpful. I hope these links help aid you in feeling that when you communicate with your kids that you have someone other than just my insights as a psychotherapist based on my experience working with the youth population and adults, education, and documentation I have read through the years and recent findings. Knowledge is powerful – thus, great question.

Bravo to you and all those parents out there who take this topic seriously and take the time to discuss marijuana and the dangers of it with their children.

Links of helpful research findings for parents and kids:
http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/05/marijuana.aspx
http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/infofacts/marijuana
http://www.apa.org/topics/addiction/index.aspx
http://www.inspirationsyouth.com/Teen-Marijuana-Addiction.asp?gclid=CIe69PzB4q8CFYhM4Aod51wQ2g
http://cannabisculture.com/v2/content/2012/01/09/Marijuana-Drug-Choice-Among-Teens-Study-Finds
http://www.parentspurpose.com/family-concerns/drugs/marijuana-%E2%80%93-the-drug-of-choice-for-life%E2%80%99s-losers
http://parentingteens.about.com/od/marijuana/a/teensmarijuanadruguse.htm
http://rockrivertimes.com/2011/12/21/marijuana-synthetic-drug-use-on-the-rise-among-teens/

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