With the relaxing of possession laws in states like Colorado and Washington, and the legalization of medical marijuana in other states, parents have begun worrying more than ever about the availability of cannabis (also known as weed, pot, grass, marijuana) and whether their child might be smoking weed.
First the good news: while we know that teens are smoking pot, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), marijuana use has actually decreased slightly. Approximately 7.1 % of teens were smoking pot as of 2013, which is down from ten years earlier (in 2003), when about 8.2% of teens were using the drug.
Now the bad news: as of 2013, this same study reported that the first use of any illicit drug was marijuana, by just over 70% of participants. In fact, nearly 50% of teens and adolescents say that it would be fairly easy for them to obtain cannabis.
Cannabis Effects on Children, Adolescents, and Teens
For these at-risk kids, the following marijuana facts for teens may change their minds about smoking pot.
Cannabis effects on the developing brain and body:
- Impairment of athletic performance due to cannabis’ effects on coordination and timing
- Potential for addiction
- Learning and memory problems
- Increased heart rate
- Aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses
- Developmental delays; trouble learning something new or focusing on difficult tasks
- Coordination problems
- Failure in school
- Possible panic or psychosis when using the drug
- Worsening of psychotic symptoms in people who already have schizophrenia
- Altered judgement, increase in risky behaviors
- Potential to abuse harder drugs, such as heroin
First of all, you may be wondering is marijuana addictive? The short answer is “yes”. Generally speaking, about 1 out of every 11 cannabis users will become addicted, but that number increases to 1 out of every 6 people for those who begin using marijuana in their teens. In addition, daily use increases the rate of addiction to between 25% and 50% of cannabis abusers.
We also know that exposure to cannabis affects the brain. The brain receptors for the drug are located in the areas regulating memory, coordination, and learning, which is especially troubling for teens and adolescents since brain development continues into a person’s early twenties.
Failing in school is another one of the sad facts about weed. Because of marijuana’s effect on the brain, teens and adolescents who use pot are more likely to have lower grades in school, to drop out, and may even have a lower IQ as a result of smoking grass. And, their IQ might not improve even if they stop smoking weed as an adult.
Athletic performance can also be impaired because of cannabis’ effects on movement and coordination. In addition, skills like timing the kick for a soccer goal or swinging a bat in baseball can be compromised
Smoking Weed: Second-hand Smoke Impacts Children
For some reason, there is a misconception that second-hand pot smoke is not as dangerous to children as cigarette smoke. As more and more states are legalizing the use of cannabis, however, new studies are showing that it impacts children far more than people realize. Just as with tobacco smoke, the vapors released by smoking weed can increase the symptoms of a respiratory illness, aggravate asthma, and make children more likely to catch viruses. Also, it has been shown that a “contact high” can result from exposure to cannabis, which means a child who inhales the smoke from an adult may have problems with memory, have lower attention levels, and decreased motivation.
Additionally, marijuana metabolites can be detected in children who have been exposed to the second-hand smoke of their parents, siblings, and caregivers. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis, has also been found in breast milk. This raises the possibility of decreased motor development in the infant of a mother who uses grass.
Safe Storage of Cannabis
Now that some states legally allow adults over the age of 21 to possess a certain amount of marijuana, there has been an increase in accidental ingestion by children. For this reason, if you are using cannabis, always be sure to:
- Store the drug (as well as any vitamins or medicines) away in a place that is high up and out of reach of your child.
- Think about getting a lock box to store your medications and drugs. Be sure to keep the key in a different place, away from the box.
- Never leave the drug or any medications out, even if you will be using them again soon. Keeping potentially harmful substances out of the reach of kids helps keep them safe.
- Talk to your guests and to the parents of children whose homes your own kids may visit about keeping their marijuana hidden and locked away.
- Be prepared to contact the Poison Help Center at (800) 222-1222 if you think a child may have ingested cannabis products.
Let Our Children’s Center Help
If your child is smoking weed, contact the professionals at our child-focused department to learn more about the Children’s Center’s parenting support services. To reach the Children’s Center for Psychiatry Psychology and Related Services in Delray Beach, Florida, call us today at (561) 223-6568.