Marijuana is now legal for adults in Canada and is all over the news today. While this can have a positive impact on those who can use it legally for medical purposes, youths today may be curious about whether marijuana is safe for them to use and if it’s something they should try. However, the use of cannabis by youths can have a huge impact on their brain, their development, and their potential for the future. Learn more about the risks of marijuana for youths now to understand more about what can happen if they smoke marijuana.
More Access Leading to More Use and Possibility of Addiction
With legalization comes increased access to cannabis products like marijuana that can be smoked and edibles. The law currently does not allow teens to use marijuana recreationally, but it is nevertheless possible for them to access it at home or in other places. While it may seem harmless, marijuana can have a huge impact on youth who starts using it when they’re younger, especially if they have unlimited access and can consume cannabis more often.
While marijuana is typically thought of as a drug that’s not addictive, it can be. Around 10 percent of people who use marijuana are going to become addicted to it. Addiction doesn’t necessarily mean that they are physically addicted to it, but that it impacts their daily life, and they have trouble quitting even after experiencing negative impacts. Teens are more susceptible to addiction, so they’re at a higher chance of becoming addicted to marijuana than an adult might be. Additionally, the younger someone starts to smoke, the stronger their addiction may be. This can lead to it being more difficult for them to quit later.
Impact of Marijuana on a Growing Brain
Teens still have a developing brain. The brain is still forming until someone is around 25 years old. Smoking marijuana before this point can change the brain’s structure, which can lead to a lower quality of brain connections. It can also reduce the blood flow to parts of the brain. Studies recently have linked marijuana use with lowered IQ scores, reduced attention, and poor memory. Marijuana can decrease a person’s ability to build the brain connections needed for self-control, decision-making, and creative thinking.
More studies are being done to see exactly how the brain will change with increased marijuana use. However, those who have reported heavy marijuana use showed damage to the brain, impacting their communication skills, making them more impulsive, and affecting their ability for abstract thinking. Heavy use is not needed to show changes in the brain, however, as there are changes noticed between those who had never used marijuana and those who used it at least once per week when they were under 25 years old. Heavier use, however, can lead to more significant damage to the brain.
Potential for Mental Illness Due to Marijuana Use in Youths
Mental illnesses typically occur when there are not enough of a certain chemical in the brain or when there is too much. Because marijuana can impact how the brain functions, it can have an impact on the person’s mental health, especially if they start consuming marijuana while they’re young. Studies have shown a strong link between marijuana use in youths and mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. People who have a family history of mental health disorders are more likely to develop mental health issues if they start consuming marijuana when younger. New studies are needed to understand further the relationship between consuming marijuana as a teen and mental health, though there have already been studies that have shown there is a connection with regular use and the development of psychosis and schizophrenia.
New Drivers Under the Influence
Those who start smoking marijuana when younger are at an increased risk of driving while under the influence, especially soon after they’ve received their first driver’s license. Marijuana has been shown to impair motor skills, which can have a huge impact on how well a person can drive. It also impacts reaction time, coordination, and the person’s ability to concentrate on what’s happening on the road. For youth today, driving under the influence of cannabis is more common than driving under the influence of alcohol, especially amongst teen males. Those who start smoking while younger may not understand the significance of how they are impacted if they smoke before driving, meaning they are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed while they’re driving.
Other Negative Impacts of Marijuana on Teens
The impact on the brain is not the only risk marijuana poses for youths. Some of the other negative impacts marijuana can have on teens will include the following:
• School – Marijuana use can have a serious impact on a teen’s ability to do well in school. They may start going to school less often and may have difficulty with tests. This can lead to a decreased overall performance and ability to get the grades they were getting before. Students who use marijuana are also more likely to drop out of high school compared to others.
• Social Life – When marijuana becomes addictive, it can cause the teen to shy away from social activities as they prefer to smoke instead of going out. This can have a huge impact on their social life, which can impact their mental health as well as have other far-reaching implications as they get older.
• Long-Term Health – Long-term marijuana use starting as a teen can have an impact on fertility, the respiratory system, and the immune system. Those who start smoking when younger have an increased risk of many different health problems in the future.
Though marijuana is now legal for adults in Canada, it remains risky for youths to use recreationally. It can have a much bigger impact than many youths will realize and can continue to impact them well into the future, even if they do decide to quit smoking or consuming cannabis at some point. Instead, it’s much safer to avoid use until after the brain has finished developing and to limit the amount used to reduce the chance for any health issues.