Some teens smoke marijuana because “everyone is doing it”, however that is not true. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) 2011 Monitoring the Future study about 7.2 percent of 8th graders, 17.6 percent of 10th graders, and 22.6 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana in the month before the survey. In fact, marijuana use declined from the late 1990s through 2007, with a decrease in past-year use of more than 20 percent in all three grades combined from 2000 to 2007. However, regular daily use among some groups has increased. In 2011, 6.6 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana daily, compared to 5.0 percent in 2006.
There are many short and long term health effects associated with marijuana use. The THC (main psychoactive or mind altering ingredient) found in marijuana triggers brain cells to release the chemical dopamine. Dopamine creates good feelings, but for a short time. THC effects the functioning of the brain and interferes with learning and memory; that is because the hippocampus (the part of the brain most affected by marijuana use) plays a critical role in certain types of learning. Disrupting its normal functioning can lead to problems studying, learning new things, and recalling recent events.
Another health risk involves the heart rate. Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, an individual’s heart begins beating more rapidly, the bronchial passages relax and become enlarged, and blood vessels in the eyes expand, making the eyes look red. The heart rate, normally 70 to 80 beats per minute, may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute or, in some cases, even double. This effect can be greater if other drugs are taken with marijuana.
While most people who smoke marijuana do not go on to use other drugs, long-term studies of high school students show that few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana. For example, the risk of using cocaine is much greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it. Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who use and sell other drugs. So, a person who uses marijuana is more likely to be exposed to, and urged to try other drugs. The effects of marijuana on the brain of adolescents may also affect their likelihood of using other drugs as they get older.
Marijuana is addictive. About 9 percent of people who use marijuana become dependent on it. The number increases to about one in six among those who start using it at a young age, and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users. Because marijuana increases dopamine and thus the “high”, a user may feel the urge to smoke marijuana again and again to re-create that experience. Repeated use could lead to addiction, a disease that can have severe negative consequences at the personal, social, academic, and professional levels.
A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Some of these studies have shown age at first use to be an important risk factor. Early use can lead to increased vulnerability to problems later in life including addiction.
Parents! Talk to you teens about the dangers
and health risks involved with marijuana use.
They will listen!
(source: NIDA National Institute on Drug Abuse)
Submitted by Kathy Graham Sullivan