Despite being known as a “natural” substance, marijuana use in any form is not safe for adolescent brain development. Research shows that 1-in-6 people who start using marijuana before the age of 18 can become addicted (SAMHSA).
Research suggests that one of the most influential factors for children is a strong, open relationship with a parent. Though it may not seem like it, children really hear your concerns, and it’s important that you discuss the risks of using marijuana with them.
The U.S. Surgeon General addresses marijuana-related questions he often receives including those related to the chemical composition and potency of today’s marijuana, associated risks, and what parents and teachers can say to young people about marijuana.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in America and it comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. And, like the tobacco plant, its smoke contains a mixture of gasses and particles that are harmful to your lungs. It's time to separate fact from fiction.
When marijuana is smoked or vaporized, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries it to organs throughout the body, including the brain. Its effects begin almost immediately and can last from 1 to 3 hours. This can affect decision making, concentration, and memory for days after use, especially in people who use marijuana regularly.
Marijuana is addictive. Marijuana contains a psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Due to THC’s chemical structure being similar to anandamide—a naturally occurring brain chemical— THC is able to attach to cannabinoid receptors on neurons (neurons: cells of the nervous system that carry ‘messages’ throughout the brain). This process alters the brain’s communication and normal functioning.
Marijuana use decreases academic and athletic performances. THC attaches to receptors in the brain that are vital for memory formation (Hippocampus, Orbitofrontal Cortex), balance, coordination, and reaction time (Basal Ganglia, Cerebellum). This causes increased difficulty in learning, distorted thinking, hallucinations, loss of motivation, energy, anxiety, and depression.
Marijuana goes by many names. Here are some common terms: Weed, Pot, 420, Grass, Dope, Ganja, Cannabis, Mary Jane, Blaze, Reefer, Hash, Herb, Boom, and Skunk.
Most youth choose not to use marijuana. In 2018, 84.9% of Frenchtown Middle/High School students reported never smoking marijuana.
All drugs change the way the brain works by changing the way nerve cells communicate. Nerve cells, called neurons, send messages to each other by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters attach to molecules on neurons called receptors. Drugs affect this signaling process.
When marijuana is smoked or vaporized, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries it to organs throughout the body, including the brain. Its effects begin almost immediately and can last from 1 to 3 hours. This can affect decision making, concentration, and memory for days after use, especially in people who use marijuana regularly.1 If marijuana is consumed in foods or beverages, the effects of THC appear later—usually in 30 minutes to 1 hour—and may last for many hours. Some people consume more and more waiting for the “high” and end up in the emergency room with uncomfortable symptoms from too much THC.
As it enters the brain, THC attaches to cells, or neurons, with specific kinds of receptors called cannabinoid receptors. Normally, these receptors are activated by chemicals similar to THC that occur naturally in the body. They are part of a communication network in the brain called the endocannabinoid system. This system is important in normal brain development and function.
Most of the cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana activates the endocannabinoid system, which causes the "high" and stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain's reward centers, reinforcing the behavior. Other effects include changes in perceptions and mood, lack of coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory.
Full Article Referenced: NIDA. 2020, September 9. Marijuana. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/marijuana
Believe it or not, children, teens, and young adults care about what you say. Have a conversation with your children about marijuana today!
Any age! We recommend initiating the conversation before fourth grade due to the increase of marijuana use among children. Be sure to discuss your family's expectations about marijuana use regularly.
Be specific, express a no use attitude, and set clear expectations and guidelines within your home about marijuana.