Use of marijuana. How dangerous is it really?

The ‘ substance abuse among young people remains a marked concern for parents and is the focus of ongoing research. There are studies aimed at acquiring epidemiological data on the spread of these substances. Others to ascertain its impact on the brain development process, which is still ongoing at least until the age of twenty. The unequivocal result is that drug use can affect the health and well-being of adolescents at a critical moment in their lives by interfering with the processes of brain maturation.

A recent survey was carried out by the  National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA), concerning the spread of drugs of abuse among young people. This highlighted that while the consumption rates of tobacco cigarettes tend to decline, the same is not the case with marijuana . Its use among teenagers is currently more widespread than cigarette smoking, and about 45% of secondary school students have tried marijuana at least once in their life.

Distorted ideas about marijuana use

Another alarming fact is the decrease in the number of teens who believe marijuana is harmful. This is despite the growing scientific evidence that prolonged use of this substance can interfere with the normal functioning of many mental activities.

The same Institute, then, underlines how much parents play an important role in the possibility of influencing the attitudes and behaviors of their children. It is also clear that the issue of the harm related to the use of marijuana is difficult to address in the family.

This is because in the social context of everyday life misleading messages are conveyed which tend to minimize the harmful effects of this substance. Among others, the approval of the laws on the medical use of marijuana and the debate about its legalization. Not to mention the fact that many parents may have used marijuana when they were younger. This makes it more difficult to address this issue with children and to establish rules and principles.

Precisely to facilitate this type of communication, NIDA has developed and disseminated a short guide. It is in the form of questions and answers and can provide help and a starting point to tackle this delicate and controversial issue.

Why do young people use marijuana?

Young people start to use marijuana for many reasons, most notably curiosity, pressure from friends, and a desire to conform to certain social standards. In particular, they are at increased risk of marijuana use , those who have:

  • already started smoking cigarettes or using alcohol;
  • untreated mental disorders;
  • suffered psychological trauma.

For some, drug use begins as a means of coping with feelings of anxiety , anger , depression, or boredom. Parents, grandparents and older siblings are role models that young people follow. Research suggests that family members’ use of alcohol and drugs play an important role in whether a young person uses them as well. In fact, all aspects of a teenager’s living environment – home, school and community – can be a facilitating element in this sense.

Numerous researches indicate that the use of marijuana and other drugs usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties, and then declines in the following years.

Can marijuana be addictive?

Repeated use can lead to addiction to marijuana , which means that those who use it may find it difficult to stop taking it, even if this substance has a negative impact on their life. Research suggests that about 30% of people who use marijuana have a so-called “marijuana use disorder”, even if they have not yet developed an addictive condition.

Marijuana has negative effects on attention, motivation, memory and learning. These effects can persist even after some time from the interruption of its intake. In particular, people who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are at greater risk of developing this symptomatology.

The effects of marijuana vary according to several factors, including previous experiences with other drugs, a biological predisposition, the way the substance is taken, its potency. Withdrawal symptoms, which last for about two weeks, can manifest as irritability, sleep disturbances, anxiety, decreased appetite, and physical discomfort.

Does Marijuana Use Lead to Another Drug Use?

Most people who use marijuana do not use other “heavier” substances, such as cocaine or heroin.

However, some research shows that people often try marijuana before trying other substances. Researchers are now investigating the possibility that marijuana exposure in a teenager could cause changes in the brain that increase the risk of later becoming dependent on other substances such as alcohol , opioids, cocaine or drugs.

Is marijuana dangerous for those behind the wheel?

Marijuana impairs judgment and many other skills necessary for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination and reaction time. L ‘ use of marijuana makes it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Marijuana is the most commonly found illegal drug in fatal accidents, sometimes in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

What kind of social impact determines the use of marijuana?

Marijuana causes low cognitive performance, with the consequence of causing:

  • school failures;
  • mental and physical health problems;
  • discomfort in interpersonal skills;
  • fewer career successes;
  • worse quality of life.

Is Marijuana Use Linked to Some Mental Illnesses?

Although scientists still don’t fully understand how marijuana use can impact the development of mental illness, high doses can cause a panic attack or even   acute psychosis , characterized by detached thoughts or hallucinations .

Are there any treatments for marijuana addicts?

Cognitive-behavioral therapies are available and indicated , also used for the treatment of alcohol dependence . These include motivational reinforcement therapies for treatment and strategies for learning to manage emotions while avoiding them involving the automatic use of drugs of abuse.

There are currently no drugs approved in the United States for the treatment of marijuana addiction , although promising research is underway for drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms and reduce marijuana cravings.

Is marijuana a medicine?

Research shows that some chemicals found in marijuana may have medical uses. In the USA, some drugs containing these substances have been marketed, which have been recognized as effective therapeutic aids in certain clinical situations. For example in the treatment of nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy, for the treatment of rare and severe forms of epilepsy and chronic pain .

C ow do I know if my child has used marijuana?

Parents should get used to detecting changes in their children’s behavior, including, for example:

  • not brushing your hair or teeth properly;
  • skip showers;
  • show changes in mood or show impatient and quarrelsome attitudes towards other family members or friends.

Other signs that can make you suspicious are represented by:

  • deterioration in academic performance;
  • irregularities in class attendance;
  • loss of interest in sports or other favorite activities;
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits;
  • problems with law enforcement.

Advice for parents

  • Be a good listener.
  • Help your child cope with peer pressure to use drugs.
  • Get to know your child’s friends and their parents.
  • Supervise your child’s activities.
  • Talk to your child often.


by Abdullah Sam
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