Addiction Drug Use Marijuana Why Marijuana Use in Teens Is Harmful By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 10, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Aron Janssen, MD Medically reviewed by Aron Janssen, MD LinkedIn Aron Janssen, MD is board certified in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and is the vice chair of child and adolescent psychiatry Northwestern University. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images The stigma of marijuana use has declined since the early 2000s, with some states legalizing it for medical and even recreational uses. While it may not be as problematic for adult use as once believed, there are still plenty of good reasons to discourage pot smoking in teenagers. First of all, it's illegal. And research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that childhood marijuana use can affect learning ability, attention, memory, coordination, balance, judgment, and decision-making. Understand Why Teens Smoke Pot It would be nice if there was one clear reason that children and young teenagers begin using marijuana, but there are actually many reasons teens choose to begin smoking weed. If you want to keep your children from smoking weed at an early age, you will have to be diligent in several areas of influence in their lives. Pressure From Peers and Others Children who have family members who smoke or express approval of marijuana are much more likely to begin using marijuana than those with no family involvement with the drug. Similarly, if they live in a neighborhood where they see drug activity going on, teens are less likely to express disapproval of drug use and become more likely to try drugs themselves. Peer pressure to smoke pot remains a strong influence as well. If they have friends who are using marijuana, they are more likely to try it themselves. There's a tendency to adopt the attitude that "everyone is doing it" and it's part of the normal teenage experience. But research shows that the majority of teens make it all the way through high school without ever using marijuana. Drug and alcohol use is often promoted in the music they download, and the videos they watch online. Those influences can be significant for young teens. Statistics on Marijuana Use in Teens Self-Medicating and Escape Many teens turn to marijuana in an effort to self-medicate, to make themselves feel better. They use marijuana to try to cope with depression, anxiety, and anger. Teens will also begin using weed as an escape. Boredom is one of the main reasons some teens report that they use marijuana. Children who have been physically or sexually abused are at greater risk than other teens for using marijuana and other drugs. They turn to drugs to escape the fear and pain of abuse. Know the Risks of Weed Some kids begin using marijuana because they don't understand the harm it can do to them while their brains and minds are still not fully developed. Or more often, they make a decision to begin using based on misinformation. The marijuana legalization movement has played a role in sending a mixed message to young people. Teens might believe "if it's medicine, it must be safe" or "if it's legal, it must be OK." In no state where marijuana has been made legal for medical or recreational use has it been made legal for anyone under that age of 21. Not even the most adamant legalization advocates propose making it legal for children to use marijuana. If you are a parent who wants to protect your children from the dangers associated with early marijuana use, educate them with the facts so that they can make an informed decision about the risks. Marijuana use in adolescence can have these short-term consequences: Difficulty learning and retaining informationInjuryCar accidentsRisky sexual behavior (leading to sexually transmitted disease)Bronchitis (can become chronic if marijuana use continues) Addiction Addiction to marijuana is possible and it's even more likely if you begin to use the drug prior to age 18. In fact, marijuana use disorder accounts for nearly 50% of admission for those ages 12 to 17 years who are receiving substance use disorder treatment, according to the NIDA. Press Play for Advice on Preventing Addiction Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares strategies for preventing your kids from developing addictions, featuring bestselling author Jessica Lahey. Click below to listen now. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts Poorer Quality of Life Not only are students who misuse marijuana more likely than their non-using peers to drop out of high school, but they have been found to have lower salaries, less career success, and diminished life satisfaction later in life. This may be associated with altered brain development and cognitive impairment. Mental Illness Research has found that high doses of marijuana can result in panic attack or even acute psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking in those who already have severe mental illness. The risk of psychosis is even greater if someone has genetic risk factors. Some research has even linked chronic cannabis use in adolescents to an increased risk of schizophrenia. Auto Accidents When you use marijuana, your judgment, alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time are impaired. Driving while under the influence of marijuana can double a young driver’s risk of a car accident, and the risk is even higher if they consume even small amounts of alcohol. Talk to Kids About Marijuana It is important to talk to your teen about marijuana use, not only if you feel they may be smoking pot, but to help prevent future use. If you’ve found evidence of your teen using, share with your teen what you have found and express why you believe they are using drugs. Don’t be surprised if your teen gets defensive or denies it. Pick the Right Time If you think your teen is high, it’s best to wait until they are sober to have a conversation so they communicate properly. Instead of arranging a sit-down meeting, which might be met with resistance, try to make the talk more spontaneous and casual during a time when you’re both physically and mentally present. Be Positive and Hold Judgment If you judge or condemn your child, they will likely deny use and be less receptive to your message. Instead, think about when you were a teen and how you’d want your parents to talk to you with respect, understanding, and curiosity. Stay Clear-Headed and Calm While you want to get your point across, you don’t want to approach the conversation with anger or panic. This may prevent your teen from really listening to your concerns. A Word From Verywell If you think your child is misusing marijuana, help is available. Reach out to your pediatrician, who could talk to your child and/or recommend an addiction or mental health professional. Since it is possible to become addicted to marijuana, your child may need outpatient counseling or perhaps even residential treatment. If your child is struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Heavy Marijuana Use Affects Learning and Social Skills 9 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. Drug facts: Marijuana. Updated December 2019. Simons-Morton BG, Farhat T. Recent findings on peer group influences on adolescent smoking. J Prim Prev. 2010;31(4):191-208. doi:10.1007/s10935-010-0220-x Duncan DT, Palamar JJ, Williams JH. Perceived neighborhood illicit drug selling, peer illicit drug disapproval and illicit drug use among U.S. high school seniors. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2014;9:35. doi:10.1186/1747-597x-9-35 Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SR. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(23):2219-27. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1402309 Winters KC, Lee CY. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-47. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005 Macleod J, Oakes R, Copello A, et. al. Psychological and social sequelae of cannabis and other illicit drug use by young people: A systematic review of longitudinal, general population studies. Lancet. 2004;363(9421):1579-1588. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16200-4 Kuepper R, van Os J, Lieb R, Wittchen HU, Höfler M, Henquet C. Continued cannabis use and risk of incidence and persistence of psychotic symptoms: 10 year follow-up cohort study. BMJ. 2011;342:d738. doi:10.1136/bmj.d738 Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clin Chem. 2013;59(3):478-92. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381 Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. How to Talk About Marijuana. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.