Studies Indicate Teen Brains Should Not Have Regular Marijuana Use
It isn’t just over-protective parents reacting to California’s marijuana legalization: statistics suggest that more than 50 percent of kids under eighteen years old believe it is now easier to get and to use marijuana. Parents used to be able to tell when their kids had smoked marijuana, simply from the odor, but today THC comes in many forms, from smokeless vape pens to candies. What hasn’t changed at all is marijuana’s negative effect on the developing brain and even more so now with the increased levels of THC in marijuana today. Given current research findings and statistics, it’s imperative for parents to speak with their pre-teens and teenagers about the effects of marijuana use on their brains and their lives.
Neurologists have shown that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for our most complex decision making, does not achieve full maturity until the mid-twenties. In teenagers, the brain hasn’t finished forming and may not develop fully if marijuana use is regular.
Current studies indicate impulse control, decision making and the ability to learn are all compromised with regular marijuana use, the amount intake, potency of product and frequency of use are key factors. However, more research is needed to determine exactly how much these variables contribute to frontal cortex delay or damage.
This much is clear: the mind is sharper, the emotions more under control and the decision making better in a person who is not under the influence of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. A recent study of 1,000 cannabis users between the ages of 13 and 38 found that heavy marijuana use among teens led to a permanent loss of IQ, brain-processing speed and memory.
School Slog Leads to Life Laziness
School can be tough sledding for teens at times, but academic performance really takes a hit when a student is high. A positive education depends on classroom attention, memory and cognitive skills, the same three areas that are directly affected by marijuana use. Studies indicate kids who regularly use marijuana skip more school, study less, get lower grades and have a higher propensity for dropping out before graduation.
Once an “off-campus” habit, vaping and edibles entice kids to get high more often at school, resulting in potential social unease or alienation as well as low academic performance. Kids who sacrifice both their social world and their academic performance find little reason to remain in school; in fact, daily marijuana users are 60% less likely to graduate.
Patterns established during high school perpetuate into adulthood and throughout life. As adults, regular cannabis users are more likely to have fewer career options and more relationships issues.
What to Do
Parents need resources to tackle the complex issue of teen marijuana use, especially since the legalization of recreational marijuana use in California has complicated the conversation. How do we tell a child, who is naturally trying on adult behaviors, that what adults have decided is fine for them is not okay for younger people? Additionally, a lack of long-term research concerning edibles, vapes, Juuls and other sources of THC may imply benign outcomes.
Fortunately, the Sacramento County Coalition for Youth (SCCY) can provide support and keep parents updated about the impact of cannabis use on the undeveloped brain. The SCCY provides information concerning how to approach the subject, what to say, and how to respond to kids’ questions and their actions. Visit the SCCY website to learn more about how we can help our teenagers make good decisions as they grow into healthy and happy adults.