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Teen Marijuana Myths

Close-up of two teenage boys sharing a marijuana joint at home in a dark room.  

Contrary to what common myths about marijuana assert, this drug is not risk-free. Unfortunately, marijuana use in teens is fairly common and has remained steady over the last decade. In fact, nearly 6% of high school seniors report using marijuana on a daily basis. Additionally, nearly 25% of 12th graders use marijuana monthly.

While marijuana use may be relatively common, it is not harmless. Understanding common myths about marijuana can help parents distinguish fact from fiction.

Myth: Marijuana Is Not Addictive

Because so many adolescents abuse marijuana, there is a misconception that marijuana is not addictive. Some teens may even believe that marijuana is safe because “everyone is doing it.”

Fact: Marijuana Is an Addictive Substance

Marijuana can be addictive, and marijuana use disorder is recognized as a diagnosable condition. Furthermore, teens are particularly susceptible to addiction; research shows that teens who use marijuana are significantly more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who use marijuana in their early to middle 20s.

Myth: You Can’t Get in Trouble for Smoking Marijuana

Marijuana use in teens is common enough that some teens believe there are no consequences for using this substance. Others may believe that marijuana use is “not a big deal.”  As states legalize medical marijuana and adult recreational marijuana, many teens falsely believe they can use the drug legally.

Fact: Teen Marijuana Use is Illegal & May Lead to Consequences

Even in areas where marijuana use is legal for adults, it is still illegal for teens to use. The consequences for teen marijuana use are serious: teens who use marijuana may face criminal charges for possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia. They can be placed on probation for marijuana use and made to participate in rehabilitation or community services. Furthermore, teens who participate in sports may be banned from their teams.

Myth: If I Smoke Now, I’ll Be Fine in an Hour or Two

Teens may think that they are not impaired once the “high” sensation wears off. While the most noticeable effects of marijuana use may fade after one to three hours, the impairment can last much longer.

Fact: Marijuana Impairment Lasts 24 Hours or Longer

A teen can experience this impairment for up to a day after smoking. Thus, teens may be at risk of receiving an underage DUI from marijuana use even if they are unaware they are still high.

A study of airplane pilots confirmed this. Twenty-four hours after smoking one marijuana joint, many of the pilots demonstrated impairment during a flying simulation task. Most of these pilots were unaware that they were still impaired by marijuana.

Myth: Smoking Pot Won’t Lead to Other Forms of Drug Use

The misconception that marijuana is not a gateway drug perpetuates teen drug use. Teens who feel that marijuana never leads to other forms of drug use may continue to smoke.

Fact: Early Marijuana Use is a Risk Factor for Later Substance Abuse

Despite the notion that marijuana isn’t a gateway drug, marijuana use in teenagers can lead to later addictions to harder drugs. In fact, one recent study found that those who were regular marijuana users during their teenage years were 47.9 times more likely to use other illegal drugs at the age of 21.

Myth: Marijuana Is Safer Than Alcohol or Cigarettes

Many teens feel that marijuana is safer than alcohol or cigarettes. This is because Because the negative health and behavioral effects of marijuana are less widely discussed than those cigarettes and alcohol. In addition, many believe that marijuana is natural and therefore not harmful.

Fact: Potent THC Is Very Dangerous & May Be Riskier than Alcohol & Cigarettes

Marijuana potency should be a major concern for today’s teenage marijuana users. According to medical expert Elizabeth Stuyt, the THC content of marijuana (the chemical that causes the marijuana high) is increasing. While the content of THC  was under 2% prior to the 1990s, it is as high as 17% to 28% today. Unfortunately, this increasingly potent marijuana can be more addictive than the lower potency marijuana. As potency increases, marijuana may become more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes.

Despite the myths surrounding marijuana use, it is possible for teens to develop addictions to this substance. If you suspect your child or another teen in your life is living with a marijuana addiction, Next Generation Village has a team of experts who are able to answer any questions you may have and can discuss the treatment process for marijuana addiction. Call us today; we’re here to help.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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