Marijuana has been a banned, demonized, and illegal drug for many decades. However, its outcast status didn’t prevent it from craving into the heart of the American culture as a forbidden fruit.
With the recent gains of legalization advocates, weed gets quicker into the mainstream. Thus, what seemed to be a risky endeavor around a decade ago now turns into regular shopping. You can go to a local dispensary and choose a strain to your liking – from the relaxing Dosilato strain to something exceptionally energizing – without the risk of getting behind bars.
Everything seems great, with so much opportunity for old and new stoners, but here’s a problem that emerged with the growing number of legalizing states. It’s the teens.
- They are easier manipulated into weed consumption, thus developing addiction faster than adults.
- Weed use affects the young teen brain more severely than that of adults.
- Teens experience study problems and cognitive impairments.
- Weed use results in high school dropout rates, thus depriving students of career prospects.
- Teens develop side effects more frequently, such as stress and anxiety.
- The rate of sudden death after weed consumption is alarmingly high among teens.
Here is a brief guide on why this problem matters, why teens are more vulnerable to marijuana, and what can be done to convince them to quit or never try weed.
A Couple of Stats
Let’s look at a couple of figures to understand the magnitude of the current weed problem the American society faces.
- Teens are smoking weed more often than adults do. A recent CDC survey held in 2019 found that over 37% of high school students tried weed at least once in their lives, while 22% (over one-fifth of the teen population) reported administering weed within the past month.
- Teens get addicted quicker, and those who tried weed at a young age are at a greater risk of addiction. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 1 in 6 persons who start smoking weed in their teenage period develop a real addiction over time.
- AACAP experts caution that teenage marijuana use has reached a 30-year peak, with weed use outweighing tobacco use among young people.
As you can see, the problem is pretty real. So, it’s vital to understand what makes teens more vulnerable to weed, making them a high-risk category of legalization victims.
Why Are Teens So Exposed to Marijuana?
The issue with teens is the turbulent, bright period of their lives linking childhood and adulthood. The process of maturing and character development rarely goes smoothly, so teens are always considered a unique age group in all countries and across cultures. Here are some characteristics that make teens more exposed to weed consumption and addiction:
- The modern recreational culture sees cannabis as a fun activity that gives enjoyment, just like sports or favorite hobbies. Therefore, teens often get acquainted with marijuana in their social circle, at parties, and on various social occasions.
- One serious risk factor for teen exposure to cannabis is a heavy dependence on one’s peers. Friese found in their study that many peers try weed even if they don’t want to, simply because of the fear of being left out.
- Another problem is the massive popularization of the ‘white’ image of weed, with numerous mass media sources, activists, and celebrities claiming that smoking weed is not harmful. Thus, many teens fall prey to the pseudo-scientific arguments about harmless consumption, further misguided by more legalization acts.
- Some teens use marijuana for medical purposes, but their young age contributes to poor judgment and underestimation of associated risks. For instance, the study of Bottorff et al. revealed that teens using weed to treat anxiety, depression, stress, sleep difficulties, and physical pain are not concerned about weed use risks. However, this user category differentiates itself from recreational users, justifying marijuana use by the inability to find other effective remedies for their conditions.
- The pace of legalization has made weed widely accessible to teens. Friese et al. reported that teens could get canna-infused edibles via multiple sources, with some respondents even noting that they bought edibles at school from their peers.
All these factors play to the teens’ disadvantage, posing them at a higher risk of developing an addiction or trying weed earlier than they would personally choose to.
What Stops Teens from Smoking?
Still, not all teens are equally suggestible. Some of them manage to withstand peer influence and resist the temptations of weed experiments. What helps teens make independent decisions and withstand the growing curiosity about weed among their peers?
- Many respondents say they tried weed but quit it because of the looming drug testing, getting into legal trouble because of cannabis, and being forced into drug treatment by parents.
- Those who refused weed consciously did so because of their health concerns.
Besides, the study of Skinner et al. showed that teenagers are generally open to new knowledge and guidance on the risks of weed use if delivered calmly and with respect to their autonomy. Therefore, parents and educators have the power to affect teen choices and persuade them to delay weed use to an older age.