What Do We Tell Teens About Marijuana?

Colorado just legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and Illinois just passed a law allowing use of medical marijuana.  Everyone is talking about pot, it seems, so I’ve been doing a little research, and wanted to condense what I found out for you.

There are some scientifically studied uses for medical marijuana (some more clearly successful, others not so much).  Such uses, according to webmd.com, include pain relief (the most common reason for a medical marijuana prescription), relief of naseau from cancer chemotherapy, help with seizure disorders, relief from muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, and a few other things.  Marijuana can be administered in pill form, vaporized, smoked, or injested in a food product.  One article reported on a study that showed that pills are more effective for pain relief than the smoked form, produce less of a high, and gives longer lasting relief. Not inhaling marijuana smoke also avoids the carcinogens you get when you smoke.  I also learned that the FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for medical use and all marijuana use is still illegal federally in the 20 states (and Washington DC) that have legalized marijuana.

What else did I find out?  There is evidence that teens are viewing marijuana more positively because of these changes in the law, and are using it more than they used to.  So what about recreational use?

A very informative article by The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains clearly what is in marijuana, and how it acts on the brain, nervous system, lungs, etc.  Here are a few things I learned from the article:

  • Marijuana is about twice as addictive for those who start using it at a young age.
  • Marijuana produced today is more than 3 times as potent as it was in the 1980s.
  • Pot smokers have higher rates of respiratory problems and illnesses.
  • It increases heart rate significantly, and some studies show increased risk of heart attack.
  • A marijuana high involves “distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.”
  • “Users who began using in adolescence revealed a profound deficit in connections between brain areas responsible for learning and memory.”
  • “People who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost as much as 8 points in IQ” and the effects didn’t go away even after use stopped later in life.
  • Its chronic use is linked to higher rates of psychosis and schizophrenia.