Marijuana legalization has prompted questions as to whether the drug’s increased availability will influence its already rampant use among teens. While the potential impact of marijuana legalization on teen use remains unclear, the drug’s effect on teen cognitive and intellectual ability is apparent. Studies have shown that heavy marijuana use correlates with cognitive deterioration in 5 percent of teens, with the heaviest users losing up to 8 IQ points (1). The teenage years are the time period during which the brain experiences its peak growth and development, and marijuana use is proven to detrimentally impact that crucial process.
Teen drug use has plagued American society for decades, and the trend seems to be increasing, rather than ebbing. A study conducted by The U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that youth with poor academic results were over four times more likely to have used marijuana in the past year than youth averaging higher grades. In addition, several studies have also found that marijuana use is associated with lower grades and a decreased chance of graduating from school (2).
Likely due to the increasing emphasis being placed on marijuana use, whether medical or recreational, the media is unconsciously teaching teenagers that marijuana isn’t harmful. As a result, a reported 10 percent of high school students who would otherwise be a low risk segment for habitual pot smoking say that they would use marijuana if it were legal, per a new study. The study also says that for high school seniors, there would be a 5.6 percent increase in lifetime pot use prevalence. Since 45.6 percent of seniors admitted to smoking marijuana in the study, this suggests that legalization would increase the number to 51.2 percent (3).
To recap, not only does marijuana inhibit the development of a teen’s cognitive abilities and academic success, its legalization will undoubtedly increase its availability—and that, combined with the curiosity of most teenagers and the fact that they believe the drug to be innocent, signals the beginning of trouble.
While I believe that medical marijuana holds potential value for those who could benefit from it, the legalization of recreational marijuana use has created a society in which drug use is viewed nonchalantly.
Although teenagers often think of themselves as mature enough to make the right choices, their brains and thought processes are still developing; their ability to think responsibly and wisely can’t always be counted on. As parents, the responsibility of ensuring your teenager’s safety lies with you. In order to combat the opinions of their friends, celebrities and the media, you need to speak with your children about the dangers of drugs. While it can sometimes seem difficult to connect with your teen, remember that they are actually listening to you, even when they don’t seem to be—studies have proven that kids whose parents discuss the dangers of drugs with them are 50 percent less likely to use drugs (4).
If you suspect that your teen is using drugs, or if you’d like to speak with your teen about drugs, consider the following suggestions:
● Provide an open communication avenue. Let your child know that you are there to listen to them. Don’t be judgmental; otherwise, you risk alienating them and discouraging them from being honest with you. Even if you disagree with what they’re saying, at least you know what’s going on in their head.
● Explain your expectations. Make sure your child knows what is inappropriate when it comes to drugs and alcohol. Follow through with the consequences if your rules are broken.
● Be aware. There are several types of drugs available to your teen, and they all have different names and side-effects. By knowing and understanding the differences, your teen will be more likely to not only believe you, but to also trust what you say.
How have you dealt with this with your kids? Let us know as this is something all of us could potentially face as Moms and Dads these days.
Article Author: Kent Runyon joined Novus Medical Detox with over 20 years of management experience and over 15 years of executive-level experience. He has led accreditation teams, and is a consultant auditor for the American Correctional Association. For more information on Novus Medical Detox Center, please visit www.NovusDetox.com.