Thanks to widespread legalization efforts, marijuana has a perception of being less risky than drugs like methamphetamines or opioids. Countless movies and TV shows have depicted marijuana as a consequence-free way to have fun and relax. However, it’s essential to remember that it is still a controlled substance that can have severe long-term health effects – including addiction, which impacts a user’s brain and body.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, up to 30% of people who use marijuana develop a dependence 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.
Why Are Drugs More Dangerous for a Teen’s Brain?
Regardless of how responsibly your son behaves and how maturely he balances his schoolwork with his extracurricular activities, it’s crucial to remember that teens’ brains are still developing. Young people are prone to making impulsive decisions, which can leave them vulnerable when confronted by peer pressure.
A peer-reviewed study published earlier this year in the research publication JAMA Pediatrics is the latest addition to a growing body of evidence suggesting that teens are more susceptible to developing substance use disorders than fully grown adults. The study also supports the idea that the earlier someone begins experimenting with drugs, the more they increase their likelihood of developing a substance use disorder.
How Addictive Is Marijuana?
The “Just Say No” slogan popularized by the anti-drug campaign of the ‘80s has proven ineffective, since we now know an addiction causes changes in the brain that make it uncomfortable and dangerous for users to quit cold turkey. For instance, marijuana activates specific brain receptors that lead to mood changes, impaired memory and decision-making and an altered sense of time and reality.
People who try to stop using pot after developing a dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms and crave the drug to feel “normal.” In cases like these, they will continue to use cannabis as an escape from reality, despite its negative effects on their life.
Attempts to quit or taper off marijuana use may fail after the emergence of uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that include:
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings and irritability
- Trouble sleeping and concentrating
- Sweating and chills
- Depression and anxiety
Preventing Addiction in Teens and Young Adults
Some parents tend to dismiss teen substance use as a phase their children will quickly outgrow. However, while new experiences and youthful experimentation are part of the learning process, drug use is particularly problematic for younger people and can have far-reaching ramifications.
If marijuana use has become habitual for your son, or if you worry that cannabis may eventually pave the way to more dangerous drugs, professional treatment can help your family get back on the right track.
At ARCH Academy, we believe a promising future is still possible for your son, no matter how long he has been using drugs. Contact us to learn more about our young adult-specific programming and how we help young men aged 14 through 17 learn how to live without drugs and alcohol.