Many adults and teenagers believe marijuana is an innocuous recreational drug. While pot might not be as dangerous as substances like cocaine or methamphetamines, it can still harm a young person’s brain and body. For example, a growing body of clinical evidence indicates that marijuana use during the teen years increases the risk of psychosis.
With so many states legalizing pot for recreational and medicinal purposes, it may seem like an overreaction to consider its potential dangers to teens. Still, as a parent, you should be aware of current information about marijuana addiction and psychosis.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
People abuse marijuana because it contains tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, a psychoactive component that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system to create a euphoric high. When someone smokes pot, THC passes from their lungs through their bloodstream to their brain.
Compared to other drugs, marijuana takes effect slowly, activating specific receptors in the brain. It leads to mood changes, impaired memory and decision-making and an altered sense of time and reality.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, up to 30% of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. Meanwhile, those who begin using the drug before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder.
What Does Research Tell Us About Marijuana Psychosis?
There is an undeniable connection between marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis, especially with the high-potency strains that are currently available. Dispensaries, specialty shops and cannabis delivery services offer a wide range of high-THC edibles, vape products, inhalants and boutique cannabis strains – all of which can easily find their way into a teenager’s hands.
During a psychotic episode, someone may see, hear and feel things that aren’t there or have delusional beliefs. Since these can seem very real in the moment, people having a psychotic break may not realize they are in a mental health crisis. Making matters worse, young people experiencing mental illness may turn to marijuana to self-medicate their symptoms.
If you know or suspect your son uses cannabis or cannabis-infused products like tinctures or gummies for medical or recreational reasons, recent research should interest you. Many of the strains on the market today have a THC concentration above 10%, which can lead to psychosis with heavy use.
How to Get Help for a Marijuana Use Disorder
As a tolerance to marijuana builds over time, people will require increasingly more of the drug to experience the same effects. If they continue to smoke, vape or ingest pot, they can develop a marijuana dependence, which means their brain has become accustomed to regular doses of THC and has reduced its natural production of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.
Often, people who try to quit using pot after developing a dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms and crave the drug to feel “normal.” In these cases, they will continue relying on cannabis to escape reality, despite the adverse consequences. A qualified treatment program that provides a combination of 12-step exposure and evidence-based therapies is the best way to end a marijuana addiction and improve your son’s mental health. Contact us today to learn about our addiction treatment and alternative school for young men.