Top Reasons Teens Give for Using Marijuana

The legalization of marijuana is sending mixed messages to teens across the nation. Is the drug safe or not? As a means to answer their questions, teens often turn to social media or scour the Internet. Unfortunately, many sites may not present the whole story, and leave teens with unreliable and ambiguous information. With material available at lightening speed is it any surprise youth are beginning to see marijuana as a harmless drug and giving it a try?

Teens can easily come up with a slew of reasons they try marijuana, but the following are some of the most common ones.

Five Reasons Teens Give for Trying Marijuana

#1 I want to know what it’s like.

Many teens are curious and want to know what it feels like to get high. Curiosity is a normal part of the teen experience; however, curiosity about drugs can become a slippery slope. Teens often believe that they are invincible and bad things won’t happen to them. If only they understood the negative impact that smoking pot has on brain development, perhaps their interest in getting high would dwindle.

#2 Everyone else is doing it, so what’s the big deal?

Teens want to be accepted and liked by their peers. Their desire to belong can lead to poor decision making. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Attitude Tracking Study, when teens were asked why they use marijuana, 29 percent said it was because their friends use it. So, friends play a huge role in whether teens choose to use.

#3 I only smoke when I am bored.

In a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, about one third of teens report using marijuana to cope with boredom. Marijuana is a dangerous pastime. There are so many other healthy ways teen can fill a void in time – such as yoga, martial arts, learning to play an instrument, or getting a job. Not only are these pastimes physically and mentally stimulating, but they also promote healthy coping skills.

#4   It helps me feel better.

Many teens are looking for an escape from everyday problems. As a result, they may turn to marijuana to help deal with painful emotions and cope with mental illness. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates one in five teens has a diagnosable mental healthdisorder, and about a third shows symptoms of depression. To numb the pain teens may turn to drugs. However, self-medicating can have serious long-term consequences.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that people who self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs are likely to see an increase in social phobia, as well as other substance use disorders. Additionally, marijuana can worsen and intensify problematic symptoms.

#5 To get high or feel good.

While teens may think getting high is fun, there are some serious side effects of using marijuana. Much of the information online paints a picture of a relatively harmless substance that is not addictive. However, marijuana is harmful and addictive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, childhood marijuana use can have an adverse effect on:

•Learning ability, attention, and memory

•Coordination and balance

•Judgment and decision-making

Aside from these effects, the immediate effects of marijuana include a racing heart, disorientation, depression, sleepiness, increased appetite and dry mouth (aka “cottonmouth”). Some users may suffer from anxiety, panic attacks or anger and aggression. Plus, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, remains in the body for weeks. The American College of Pediatricians reports marijuana is an addicting drug that has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain development, and it is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer. Adolescents need to be exposed to the whole truth about marijuana use.

Spreading the Message

Unfortunately, marijuana use continues to be an uphill battle with teens. For parents, educators, and community members, we must remain vigilant in spreading the message about the dangers associated with marijuana use.

Legalization of marijuana is contributing to the belief that the drug is harmless; however, research offers concerning information regarding adolescent use. It’s time teens get the real story about what marijuana can do to their bodies, their brains and their futures.

If your child or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, Wingate Wilderness Therapy can help. Our cutting edge wilderness therapy program will provide your son or daughter with all of the essential tools needed to positively handle their addiction in the real world. Located in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in beautiful Southern Utah, Wingate Wilderness Therapy has helped a host of families from all over America. Call 800-560-1599.

Originally written by: Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., LPCS, GCDF is a Ph.D. student in Counselor Education and Supervision at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. She is the author of The AngerWorkbook for Teens

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann

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