According to a 2012 Monitoring the Future study, marijuana is the illicit drug most likely to be used by teens (Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey). Marijuana comes from the plant Cannabis Sativa and appears as a green/brown mix of flowers, stems, and leaves (Teens Health 1). Marijuana is also known as pot, weed, MJ, Mary Jane, reefer, dope, ganja, herb, and grass. Marijuana is most often smoked in cigarettes, hollowed-out cigars, pipes, or water pipes, but is sometimes mixed into food or tea (1).
Why are there concerns about teen use of marijuana? During adolescence, many developmental changes are occurring and poor choices could affect a teen’s future (University of Washington ADAI). As a result of teen marijuana use, teens engage in problematic behavior, neglect their education, and risk their health.
Problematic behavior remains an effect of teen marijuana use. “A 2008 longitudinal study of heavy cannabis users from ages 14 to 25 in a New Zealand birth cohort found that increasing cannabis use in late adolescence and early adulthood is associated with a range of adverse outcomes in later life” (University of Washington ADAI).
Ashbridge found that there is an increased risk of driving, a doubled risk of being in an accident, under the influence of marijuana (qtd. In U of W ADAI). Driving while under the influence of marijuana risks not only the user’s life, but also the lives of others. An accident caused by a driver under the influence of marijuana could potentially ruin many lives, and could easily be prevented with smart behavior.
Marijuana affects ones concentration, perception, coordination, and reaction time; all skills needed for safe driving (courtinfo.ca.gov).
Data has shown people who drive under the influence of marijuana show the same lack of coordination as those who drive under the influence of alcohol (courtinfo.ca.gov). Driving under the influence of marijuana is a problematic behavior because it affects many of the skills necessary for safe driving. Criminal behavior is also seen in association with teen marijuana use. In order to pay for drug use, teens engage in criminal behavior, motor vehicle theft, and breaking-and-entering offenses (University of Washington ADAI). Teen Marijuana users need money to pay for drug use, and in order to obtain money, teens engage in problematic behaviors. There are also legal aspects when selling, using, or possessing marijuana, involving fines, jail time, and possibly a criminal record (Teens Health 2).
Teen marijuana users’ problematic behaviors involving the law can lead to consequences, sometimes with the potential to damage the teen’s future. Laws against growing, possessing, and selling marijuana exist in all states but Washington and Colorado (2). Over 7.2 million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges since 1990, many of which were teenagers (NORML). Marijuana association damages the lives of many teens who get caught engaging in marijuana associated problematic behaviors. The problematic behaviors associated with teen marijuana use can potentially damage not only a teen’s future, but also society.
In addition to the problematic behaviors that arise from teen marijuana use, problems with neglected education also arise from teen marijuana use. Marijuana causes a lack of motivation in teens, causing them to look at school as unimportant, to not care about what happens in their lives, and to lack concern about their futures (Town of Barrington). Teen marijuana use causes teens to disengage from reality; teens live in their own fairy tale land where they don’t need anything but marijuana, and the future does not exist. This fairy tale has nothing to do with school, causing teens to neglect important years of education, potentially damaging their futures. Teen marijuana use is directly associated with poorer school performance, increased absences from school, and increased risk of dropping out without graduating (University of Washington ADAI).
The disengagement from school teen marijuana users experience, causes problems for teens because they neglect their educational privileges. A study on success in school related to marijuana use showed that students who used marijuana had poorer school success than those who did not use marijuana (Finn 3). Teens who use marijuana neglect their education, causing poorer results in school. Students who used marijuana had lower grades, lower classroom participation, worse attendance, more academic dishonesty, and were disciplined more often than students who did not use marijuana (Finn 3). Teens who use marijuana, and neglect their education, can face many educational hardships as a result.
Teens who use marijuana are often alienated or disgraced by their peers, causing them to disengage from school and other activities (OJJDP). Disengagement in, or quitting of, school or school activities, deprives peers, schools, teams, and communities of positive contributions a teen may have made if they did not use marijuana. Neglected education associated with teen marijuana use can potentially damage a teen’s future and can potentially deprive peers and activities of positive contributions a teen marijuana user may have otherwise made.
Although teen marijuana use can cause neglect of education, teen marijuana use can, more importantly, risk a teen’s health. Teens who smoke marijuana can experience minor health problems and major health problems. Respiratory problems caused by smoking marijuana such as phlegm, chronic cough, and bronchitis can be viewed as minor problems (Teens Health 2). Another minor problem caused by smoking marijuana is decreased blood pressure, which can cause dizziness (2). Smoking marijuana has minor effects on the body that risk a teen’s health because they can turn into larger problems or can just simply damage a teen’s growing body. One major problem caused by smoking marijuana is the impairment of the body’s ability to defend against infections and diseases (2).
Another major problem caused by smoking marijuana is abnormal functioning of lung tissue, ultimately injuring or destroying the lung tissue (Town of Barrington). Smoking marijuana can cause permanent damage to the body; this damage becomes a bigger risk for a teen’s health because a teen’s body is still developing. Some of the major problems can even risk a teen’s life, shortening the life they could have had if they did not smoke marijuana. The last major problem caused by smoking marijuana is the cancer causing chemicals that come from smoking it (SAMHA). Teen marijuana smokers’ risk of developing lung cancer is increased because, in order to maximize their high, they inhale deeply and hold the marijuana smoke in their lungs. (SAMAHA). Teen marijuana smoking can risk a teen’s health because marijuana smoke contains cancer causing chemicals, which could potentially lead to a teen acquiring cancer early, or later in life. Teen marijuana use can risk a teen’s health, potentially damaging their bodies forever.
As a result of teen marijuana use, teens engage in problematic behavior, neglect their education, and risk their health. Teens who are associated with marijuana, and participate in illegal activities, could potentially damage their future with criminal records. Teens who drive while under the influence of marijuana risk not only their own lives, but also the lives of others, potentially damaging their futures with criminal records. Teens who neglect their education because of association to marijuana could lose opportunities they would have otherwise had, potentially damaging their future. Teens who smoke marijuana risk their health, both in minor ways and major ways, potentially damaging their bodies forever. Is teen marijuana use really worth risking the bright futures of these teens?