Public Health, Teenagers

19. Marijuana and the Teenage Brain

Because marijuana is rapidly becoming legalized across the US, it seems prudent to spend a little time discussing the effects of cannabis on teenagers. Many Americans (including my big-hearted hippie parents, who went to Woodstock and lived on a commune in the sixties) think marijuana use isn’t a big deal. For adults who occasionally smoke a joint, it probably isn’t. But marijuana use in teens is problematic. There are significant reasons why teenagers should stay away from marijuana, and I’ve listed them below:

1. Marijuana exposure in teenagers can damage the brain, causing a permanent loss of cognitive skills and IQ points. Because the teenage brain is still developing, marijuana is not safe to use during adolescence.

2. Marijuana use in teens can cause mental health problems, including addiction, depression, paranoia, and psychosis. Yes, marijuana is an addictive drug

3. Marijuana use under age 21 is illegal. Kids taking marijuana recreationally can be prosecuted, resulting in a permanent criminal record that can adversely affect academic and professional plans.

4. Marijuana intoxication while driving can cause serious and fatal accidents, similar to alcohol. Marijuana impairs motor control, coordination, judgment, reaction time, and tracking ability.

5. Marijuana smoke is unhealthy and can damage the lungs, like cigarette smoke. Vaporizers and hookahs do not eliminate lung toxins.

6. Marijuana impairs the skills necessary for academic success, including memory, concentration, attention, and problem solving.

7. Teens who use marijuana are less likely to graduate from high school and college, and they are more likely to try harder drugs and attempt suicide. These effects increase in a dose-dependent fashion.

In summary, marijuana use in teens is problematic and should be avoided. Policy makers should take these issues into account when developing guidelines for marijuana use in this country.


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