First, the good news: Teens participate in fewer risky behaviors, like binge drinking and having sex, than their Gen X parents, notes a recent Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, the bad news: Pot use among teens is on the rise — even above smoking cigarettes and drinking — with 60 percent of high school seniors saying they think marijuana use is safe.
Okay, so perhaps not too surprising considering the growing legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana and the increasing casual attitude by many toward the drug. But here’s the scary part: Pot is more potent than ever — the average THC (the psychoactive ingredient in pot) content of marijuana is nearly 13 percent; it was less than 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s, according to CNN.com. We see some strains of marijuana as high as 25 percent or more and we know anytime you increase the potency of a drug, you also increase the potential for addiction. What’s more, many kids are consuming easy-to-conceal edibles (brownies, cookies, gummies) — and without knowing how much THC is in the product. Also, more recently we are seeing other ways of ingesting this substance as in the smoking of the very concentrated oil form (known as “dabs’) in the electronic cigarettes that are so popular with young people right now.
In general, marijuana edibles and other concentrated forms of the drug like oil produce a much longer and more potent high than smoking pot — and this can increase a teen’s risk of experiencing an adverse reaction. The result: anxiety attacks, paranoia, hallucinations and even respiratory insufficiency. Many experts believe that edibles increase the frequency and intensity of use among users of all ages. And they can certainly wreak havoc on a teen’s developing brain.
According to Ray Estefania of FRS, “Marijuana is not the harmless substance that many people believe it is. Unfortunately, the perception of harm among young people has decreased significantly because of the legalization issue. This has lead to confusion for many parents who do not know how to handle this problem when their teen or young adult begins using marijuana. We see many young people that are experiencing very serious consequences from the use of this substance, including significant impairment in normal functioning, addiction and an increase in mental health problems, including psychotic disorders, often from the use of these newer, more potent forms of this drug. The young developing brain is more susceptible to the harmful effects of any substance, including marijuana, so it’s important to recognize the problem early and intervene as soon as possible.”
Passing off pot as no big deal is risky because perception influences behavior. In other words, if teens think that marijuana is harmless, they are more likely to use the drug, according to The National Institute on Drug Abuse. Also, the younger they begin experimenting with it the more likely they are to become addicted and have their ability to function normally disrupted. So what’s the solution? Parents, educators and community leaders need to help teens understand the dangers of pot — whether or not it’s legal. Parents especially, need to clearly understand all the implications themselves so they can send the right messages, encourage their kids to be drug-free and know how to best respond once their children begin using.
Treatment for At-Risk Youth
At Family Recovery Specialists, we treat adolescents and adults who are experiencing any level of a substance use disorder. We have many years of experience working with young people who are misusing marijuana and may not recognize it as a problem therefore we are uniquely qualified to help someone with this specific substance problem. To learn more about how we can help your family learn to make smarter choices, call us today: 305-595-7378.