Potency Has Changed
Marijuana is not the same stuff that some older adults remember using back in the 1970’s, 80’s, and even 90’s. It is different today because:
o Growers have learned how to alter the plant (through crossbreeding and genetic modification) so that it produces much more THC (the part of the plant that makes you high). The marijuana that people are using today would never grow naturally in nature.2
o Because today’s marijuana has such high levels of THC (potency), users are getting much more of the chemical in their bodies which puts them a greater risk of negative side effects.
o Concentrates (used through dabbing, vaporizing, or eating edibles) have extremely high levels of THC (up to 80%) and can cause very bad reactions especially in young people.
o We are learning more and more about the effects of today’s marijuana. It may be years before we fully understand the effects that it can cause to young people.
Developing Brains are at Greater Risk
Effects on Adolescents
Recent science has proven that the young brain continues to develop up until the early to mid-20s.3 Developing brains are much more sensitive to the negative effects of all substances including marijuana. The full impact of marijuana use on adolescent health is not fully known. However, based on the current science that is available, we can say that teens should not use marijuana because of the increased risk for both short-term and long-term negative outcomes.
o The developing brain is much more sensitive to the negative effects of all drugs, including marijuana.
o For people who begin using marijuana as a teen, 1 in 6 of them will become dependent in adulthood.4
o Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, research shows that the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems.5
Effects on the Brain
When marijuana is used, THC, one of the main active chemicals in marijuana, enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body and into the brain. THC attaches to cells or neurons with specific kinds of receptors called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are abundant in parts of the brain that regulate movement, coordination, learning and memory, and higher cognitive functions such as judgment, and pleasure. These functions are the ones most affected by the THC in marijuana.
Learning and Memory
THC disrupts the functioning of a part of the brain that controls learning. This can lead to problems studying, learning new things, and recalling recent events.6
THC also disrupts the area of the brain that controls balance, coordination, and movement. These effects can lower performance in activities such as driving, sports, and video games.7 It is not safe or legal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana.
Because THC affects areas of the brain involved in decision making, using it can cause you to do things you might not normally do such as engaging in risky sexual activity, getting into a car with someone who is under the influence, or making other poor decisions.8
Performance Will Be Reduced
Marijuana can affect people differently, but it has been linked with many negative outcomes, all of which are more common among young people. The ability to do well may be lowered across many activities due to possible side effects including:
o Difficulty thinking and concentrating
o Impaired learning and memory ability
o Loss of coordination (performance in sports, driving, video games, etc.)
o Slowed reactions
o Impaired judgement (bad decisions)
o Bronchitis, cough, and phlegm among those who smoke it
o Increased heart rate and risk of heart attack
o Mental health challenges
o Weakened immune system
Researchers are still studying to understand the full effects of marijuana use, particularly among youth. Further research is needed to develop a concrete understanding of the risks as well as any health benefits. In the meantime it is important to know that there are risks and there may be effects that we are not yet aware of.
Hopes & Dreams Will Become Harder to Achieve
While kids are in school, their brains to be working as well as possible so they can get through classes, graduate, remain motivated, and go on to achieve the goals that they have for their lives.
o Teens who have used marijuana in the last year are four times more likely to do poorly in school.9
o Regular marijuana use by adolescents is related to low academic achievement, failure to graduate from high school, lower income, greater welfare dependence, and unemployment.10
o Marijuana can get in the way of your hopes and dreams.