You may hear your teen say “It’s going to be legal”, and in fact it is in several states (for adults), so “what’s the big deal?” they ask you. Well, for one thing, the marijuana teens are smoking today is not the same weed their parents may have smoked back in the 1970’s or 80’s. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the potency of marijuana has been steadily increasing. The cannabis product people smoked back in the post-hippie culture of the 1970’s was about 3% compared to weed teens have access to today ranging from 8% to 30% potency. Furthermore, marijuana concentrates often referred to as “wax” or “dabs” could have THC levels ranging from 40%-80%. That’s not your Mama’s marijuana!
The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that delivers the “high” is THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Because the brain does not fully develop until age 25 teens are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of THC which can result in lifelong deficits in learning, memory, judgment, decision making, and planning. Additionally, mental illness such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, paranoia or psychosis can be associated with marijuana use, particularly with those with underlying conditions. A study provided by Monitoring the Future indicates that the perceived risks of smoking marijuana does not equate with the actual risks teens may encounter with its use. What teens may not understand is the temporary thrill they are seeking comes at a high cost. For these reasons it’s important for parents to have open, frank discussions with their teens, offering up-to-date information based on science. Who knows, they may actually listen!