Friday, July 21st, 2017

Marijuana – A new ballgame from 30 years ago

Posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015

“When I was a kid…” doesn’t work when talking with your kids about marijuana today. It’s a whole new ballgame. Marijuana is on average six times more potent than it was 30 years ago. Marijuana is one of the first drugs a teen is offered. In fact, 41 percent of teen smokers say they began before the age of 15.

Teenagers experience intense feelings due to hormone changes, which is a normal part of development. If a teen is using marijuana as a coping method for anxiety, depression or stress, he is more likely to continue this behavior, because he gains instant relief and gratification. Instead of taking time to process and deal with the feeling, he alters it by getting high, which in turn stunts the emotional coping process. Even occasional use of pot can cause teens to engage in risky behavior, be taken advantage of, find themselves in vulnerable situations and make bad choices.

Marijuana has many other short-term and long-term effects. Short-term effects include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch), trouble with thinking and problem solving, eating and sleeping problems, loss of motor coordination, increased heart rate and anxiety. Potential long-term effects include: chronic cough or bronchitis; a fivefold increase in the risk of depression and anxiety; a six times higher risk of schizophrenia, and significantly more likely to development other psychotic illnesses and lowering IQ by as many as 10 points.

All mind-altering substances, including marijuana, are harmful for the still-developing teen brain. The part of the brain which controls reasoning and impulses, the prefrontal cortex, does not fully mature until the age of 25. Teen marijuana use means the brain is not reaching its full potential.

Marijuana, just like any other drug, can lead to addiction, and the likelihood of addiction increases considerably for those who start young. One in every six 16 year-olds who try marijuana will become addicted to it.  More young people are in treatment for marijuana abuse or dependence than for the use of alcohol and all other drugs.

Marijuana use is illegal in the State of Indiana under all circumstances. Besides possession of marijuana or possession of paraphernalia, teens can also be charged with operating while intoxicated as an adult if they smoke marijuana, then operate a vehicle, even several weeks afterwards, and even if they aren’t impaired by the marijuana. That charge carries a fine, jail time, and a driver’s license suspension. Insurance rates and scholarships may also be affected.

National debates on the legalization of marijuana have helped normalize the behavior for many teens. That’s why it’s more important than ever for parents to protect their kids’ health and development by ensuring that your child understands that you don’t approve of his use of marijuana, in the same way that you don’t want him to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use other drugs. Talk to them early and often.

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