College of DuPage Nursing Student Elaine Hauke wrote for Healthy Lombard that there has recently been a surge in the use of marijuana in teens and young adults. This is a highly concerning trend. While marijuana may be considered less addictive than nicotine and tobacco, it has direct effects on memory, reasoning, and frequent or heavy use may even lead to psychosis (Bernstein, 2019). With many states legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, due to the increased availability, it is critical to be informed about the effects of marijuana and understand how it affects the brain.
How does the use of recreational Marijuana affect adolescents?
Approximately 78% of the 2.4 million people who recreationally used marijuana last year were adolescents aged 12 to 20 years (DEA, 2019). This astounding fact is something that may not always be considered when it comes to the recreational use of marijuana. Many adolescents and their parents alike, think the use of marijuana has little effect on overall health and brain development. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The human brain is developing and growing until the age of 25 and marijuana use directly affects this growth. When adolescents regularly use marijuana it negatively affects mood, memory, attention, motivation, and the overall capacity for learning. Each of these components is critical for success and growth into adulthood, however, marijuana impairs brain growth and function.
Why is this problem relevant now more than it was before?
In January 2020, the CRTA (Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, IL Marijuana Laws) was put into effect making recreational marijuana legal. This resulted in easier access to marijuana for adolescents, thereby, increasing the availability of a harmful drug. Marijuana is available in so many forms, vapes, oils, and edibles. The range of forms has increased the ease of access to marijuana in the last few years according to the Washington Post (Bernstein, 2019). It is important to note that COVID-19 has also had an effect on marijuana use. The lockdowns, both across the country and in the state of Illinois, have increased the demand for marijuana. This may be due to an increase in depression or boredom, but in either case, this is not a beneficial change in our society.
Another adverse effect from the use of marijuana is the incidence of respiratory problems. Considering the increased risk for infection and potential virus-related complications from COVID-19, these risks are further increased from the potential effects of marijuana. Marijuana usage has increased, especially in adolescents, and even more so now that it’s legal. Therefore, increased marijuana use is even more concerning since it is a risk factor for complications from COVID-19.
What can be done to combat this problem that is affecting youth?
Due to the increased use of marijuana, more adolescents are using and abusing opioids in addition to becoming addicted to marijuana. Dropping out of school, memory problems, and hallucinations are common problems among adolescents who use marijuana. Awareness of these problems needs to be addressed, as well as education for both parents and adolescents who encounter situations involving drugs. It is especially critical that the brain-damaging effects that result from the use of marijuana be explained to at-risk populations. Now more than ever this problem is a frequent and dangerous problem. The negative effects of the use of marijuana may result in long-term manifestations in the developing brain. Thus, this current problem is quickly becoming one that may have an even greater impact on future generations.
Adolescents and Marijuana. (2019). DEA. https://www.dea.gov/divisions/adolescents-and-marijuana
Combs, A. (2020, July 2). COVID-19 lockdowns are “increasing demand for cannabis”- WHO report. GrowCola.Com. https://growcola.com/covid-19-lockdowns-are-increasing-demand-for-cannabis-who-report/
Marijuana Laws. (2020). PotGuide. https://potguide.com/illinois/marijuana-laws/
– The. (2019, December 17). Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/marijuana-vaping-by-teens-surges-2019-government-survey-says/2019/12/17/913d87ba-20fb-11ea-a153-dce4b94e4249_story.html