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The Risks of Adolescent Marijuana Use

Although occasional marijuana use may not put a teen at risk of much more than legal or social consequences (which can still be significant) heavy marijuana use is harmful to teens in a number of ways. Teens using marijuana heavily need to be convinced to stop – and those that can’t or won’t stop, need more significant treatment intervention.

Although marijuana, when smoked by adults and in moderation is a fairly benign substance, adolescents who use marijuana heavily are at risk of serious health, intellectual and, in some cases, legal consequences.

About 1 in 10 people who smoke marijuana will become dependent on the drug – and since almost half of all high school seniors admit to having tried marijuana, even 10% of these teens equates to a massive number of kids with marijuana dependency.

According to the Treatment Episode Data Set Report from SAMHSA, in 2008, 61% of teens under the age of 15 receiving substance abuse treatment and 56% of those aged 15-19 reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. 1

The consequences of heavy marijuana use by teens can include:

  • Cognitive declines – research shows that marijuana impairs the ability to consolidate memories for 24 hours after use – which for a daily smoker means that cognitive capacities are continually impaired. This could account for the fact that heavy marijuana smokers are less likely to finish high school and get lower grades in college than non smokers.
  • Developmental problems –The adolescent period is a time of great social-emotional learning. Marijuana use temporarily blunts normal emotional and cognitive experience and so heavy marijuana smokers may not have adequate opportunity to learn and practice the psychosocial skills necessary to adulthood. Teens that are always high may be slower to learn how to act appropriately (socially and emotionally) as adults; and the younger a teen starts using marijuana, the greater the developmental delay..
  • An increased risk of mental illness – heavy marijuana use is associated with an accelerated age of onset for psychotic disorders for people already predisposed to such conditions.

College Binge Drinking Stats

  • Alcohol remains an unfortunate part of the university experience, and too many students every year pay an overly high price for their youthful experimentation.
  • Alcohol is involved in the deaths of 1700 college students each year. Almost 600 000 students are injured each year while drunk.
  • Almost 700 000 students are assaulted by another student who had been drinking each year
  • 31% of college students meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse
  • A quarter of college students say that their alcohol use negatively affects their academic performance
  • Students aged 18-24 are far more likely to binge drink than non students from the same age group2

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