Teens Don’t Understand Harmful Effects of Marijuana

The teenage years come with moments of feeling invincible! Youth, adventure, energy, and new beginnings all bring with it this longing to experience life to its fullest. Thoughts of old age and death are often far away and foreign to such young life. This sense of invincibility often masks the dangers that are the consequences of risky behavior. The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) saw this feeling of invincibility in youth in a recent survey that asked teens how they viewed the harmful effects of smoking marijuana. Less than half of the participants of various age groups of youth saw smoking marijuana as harmful to their health. This NIDA study of teens’ perceptions of illegal substances is not new. The NIDA has been tracking teen perceptions for decades. One startling trend the organization has recently noticed is how much more lax teens these days see marijuana use than they did in years past. Only 20.6 percent of the twelfth grade youths surveyed believed that occasionally using marijuana is harmful. This was the lowest percentage rate NIDA has seen in their surveys since 1983. Only 41.6 percent of the eighth grade youths surveyed believed that occasionally using marijuana is harmful. Researchers thought that students would most likely believe that “regularly” using marijuana would be harmful, but still only 44.1 percent of the twelfth grade students thought it was harmful. The study found that as students got older, the less likely they were to think that marijuana could be harmful. Researchers attribute these changes in perception to recent legalization of marijuana in some U.S. states and to a lack of education about using marijuana. Some teens may have good schools and good parents who properly educate them on the risks of using marijuana. Parents might tell them that the National Academy of Science cautions that using cannabis regularly lowers their IQ. For those users, their IQ dropped an average of eight points. Even after they stopped using marijuana, the damage to their brain had already been done. Other teens may not have good parental role models in this guidance. Even teens whose parents are telling them that smoking marijuana could damage their health are getting mixed messages from the media. The legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington implies to teens that it is safe to use marijuana. Unless teens are educated on the specific problems that marijuana can cause, they may only see the big picture of legislators saying that it is perfectly fine for anyone to use marijuana. This research study helps stress that teens need to be more educated on how using marijuana regularly or heavily can affect their lives. If teens are educated on how marijuana could be detrimental to their brain development and may cause other harm, they can feel empowered to make their own wise decisions on use, or to stop their marijuana use. Saying, “don’t do it,” may be a start, but letting teens know why they shouldn’t do it will help them understand and may help them formulate wise decisions in their future.

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