Marijuana, Vaping & Youth

Nine Parent Tips for Talking About Marijuana with Your Teen

With the legalization of marijuana in many states -including RI — our children might be getting mixed messages on the risks, impact and dangers. 

Changes in marijuana policies across states legalizing marijuana for medical and/or recreational use suggest that marijuana is gaining greater acceptance in our society. Thus, it is particularly important for people to understand what is known about both the negative health effects and the potential therapeutic benefits linked to marijuana.

Because marijuana impairs short-term memory and judgment and distorts perception, it can impair performance in school or at work and make it dangerous to drive. It also affects brain systems that are still maturing through young adulthood, so regular use by teens may have negative and long-lasting effects on their cognitive development, putting them at a competitive disadvantage and possibly interfering with their well-being in other ways. Also, contrary to popular belief, marijuana can be addictive, and its use during adolescence may make other forms of problem use or addiction more likely.

Whether smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana has therapeutic benefits that outweigh its health risks is still an open question that science has not resolved. Although many states now permit dispensing marijuana for medicinal purposes and there is mounting anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of marijuana-derived compounds, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved “medical marijuana.” However, safe medicines based on cannabinoid chemicals derived from the marijuana plant have been available for decades and more are being developed.  (Read more….)

1. Discuss How Laws are Different for Young People

Similar to alcohol laws, marijuana laws differ between adults and children. Recreational use laws apply to adults 21+ with medicinal use laws typically applying to adults 18+. If using, buying or possessing marijuana while underage, there can be serious consequences with a possible criminal record, fines or disciplinary action at school.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Similar to alcohol laws, marijuana laws differ between adults and children. Recreational use laws apply to adults 21+ with medicinal use laws typically applying to adults 18+. If using, buying or possessing marijuana while underage, there can be serious consequences with a possible criminal record, fines or disciplinary action at school.

3. Teach About Unique Dangers to Young People

Young people don’t often think about the impact of marijuana on their developing brains. Marijuana not only makes it harder to think clearly, learn and solve problems effectively, but regular use can cause lasting changes to the brain. 1 in 6 teens who use marijuana become addicted and the younger they start the greater the likelihood of addiction. Marijuana use is also linked to depression, anxiety, paranoia, school drop-outs and lower test scores.

4. Discuss Other Health Effects

Marijuana smoke contains toxic chemicals that impact not only those smoking, but those around the smoker. There is a misconception that hookah or vaporizers eliminate these risks. The dangers of street drugs are real as you don’t often know what you are truly buying. It could be laced with other drugs or have an unexpected intensity. 

Edibles made with marijuana can also lead to dangerous impacts. Studies have shown that people who smoke marijuana are more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana can pose extra risks.

5. Talk About Safety Risks

Driving under the influence of marijuana creates increased risk of injury with the decrease in reaction times, and impaired coordination and judgment. Remind your child to always call you or find a safe ride home if someone is under the influence.

6. Encourage Questions

Create an environment where your child can trust you to be a source to answer questions about things they are hearing in school or the media.

7. Be Honest About Your Own Use

If your child asks, be honest and provide context. Reinforce your decisions were made before you understood the risks and with a reminder that marijuana is dramatically stronger today. If you are using now, don’t smoke in front of your children, secure its access and never drive when under the influence.

8. Stay Informed

Marijuana research and laws are changing. Keep up-to-date so you can communicate and support your child.  Learn more at NIDA.

9. Keep the Conversation Going

Your child will continually be faced with making decisions about marijuana use so make sure you support their growth and good choices with ongoing dialogue. Find teachable moments based on news stories, consequences of bad choices and new developments. Serving as your child’s guide and trusted advisor will be invaluable for their safety and best health.



More Facts on Marijuana!

What is Marijuana?

also called weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, —it is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried flowers of Cannabis sativa. Some people smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints; in pipes, water pipes (sometimes called bongs), or in blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar wraps).1 Marijuana can also be used to brew tea and is frequently mixed into foods (edibles) such as brownies, cookies, or candies.

Vaporizers (“carts”) are also increasingly used to consume marijuana. Stronger forms of marijuana include concentrated resins containing high doses of marijuana’s active ingredients, including honeylike hash oil, waxy budder, and hard amberlike shatter. These resins are increasingly popular among those who use them both recreationally and medically.

The main psychoactive(mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek, is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The chemical is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds primarily of the female cannabis plant. The plant also contains more than 500 other chemicals, including more than 100 compounds that are chemically related to THC, called cannabinoids.2

Effects of Marijuana

When marijuana is smoked, THC and other chemicals in the plant pass from the lungs into the bloodstream, which rapidly carries them throughout the body to the brain. The person begins to experience effects almost immediately (see “How does marijuana produce its effects?“). Many people experience a pleasant euphoria and sense of relaxation. Other common effects, which may vary dramatically among different people, include heightened sensory perception (e.g., brighter colors), laughter, altered perception of time, and increased appetite.

If marijuana is consumed in foods or beverages, these effects are somewhat delayed—usually appearing after 30 minutes to 1 hour—because the drug must first pass through the digestive system. Eating or drinking marijuana delivers significantly less THC into the bloodstream than smoking an equivalent amount of the plant. Because of the delayed effects, people may inadvertently consume more THC than they intend to.

Pleasant experiences with marijuana are by no means universal. Instead of relaxation and euphoria, some people experience anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic. These effects are more common when a person takes too much, the marijuana has an unexpectedly high potency, or the person is inexperienced. People who have taken large doses of marijuana may experience an acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and a loss of the sense of personal identity. These unpleasant but temporary reactions are distinct from longer-lasting psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, that may be associated with the use of marijuana in vulnerable individuals. (See “Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?“)

Although detectable amounts of THC may remain in the body for days or even weeks after use, the noticeable effects of smoked marijuana generally last from 1 to 3 hours, and those of marijuana consumed in food or drink may last for many hours.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana use can lead to the development of problem use, known as a marijuana use disorder, which takes the form of addiction in severe cases. Recent data suggest that 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder.18 People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than adults.19

Marijuana use disorders are often associated with dependence—in which a person feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. People who use marijuana frequently often report irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks.20,21 Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.22,23

Marijuana use disorder becomes addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with many aspects of his or her life. Estimates of the number of people addicted to marijuana are controversial, in part because epidemiological studies of substance use often use dependence as a proxy for addiction even though it is possible to be dependent without being addicted. Those studies suggest that 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it,24,25 rising to about 17% in those who start using in their teens.26,27

In 2015, about 4.0 million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for a marijuana use disorder;3 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for their marijuana use.28