Parents, did you know that marijuana can be addictive? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), those who begin to use marijuana before age 18 are more likely to develop marijuana use disorder than adults. Short-term effects while using or right after using include the following:
- Learning, attention, and memory problems
- Distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch)
- Poor coordination and motor skills
- Increased heart rate
- Anxiety, paranoia
- Psychosis (not common)
Long-term effects (effects of repeated use) include:
- Risk of marijuana addiction
- Long-term learning and memory problems if heavy use begins during youth
- Risk for chronic cough, bronchitis
- Risk of schizophrenia in some people with higher genetic risk
- In rare cases, risk of recurrent episodes of severe nausea and vomiting
Marijuana use also interferes with judgement, which can lead to risky behaviors. Regular use has been linked with increased risk for several mental problems, including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and personality disturbances. Due to the fact that it is unknown whether or not marijuana causes these problems, or is a response to them, further research is needed to confirm and better understand these links.
The potency of THC, which is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, has increased steadily over the past few decades. For someone new to the drug, it may mean exposure to higher concentrations of THC, with a greater chance of a negative or unpredictable reaction. For those who are more experienced with marijuana, it may mean greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis. It is unknown how much people who use marijuana adjust for the increase in potency by using less.
Many people who stop using marijuana after using it long-term experience symptoms similar to nicotine withdrawal, including irritability, sleep problems, anxiety, decreased appetite, and various forms of physical discomfort. Although withdrawal symptoms gradually disappear within 2 weeks, they can make it difficult for someone to stop using the drug, and/or may prompt relapse, which is a return to drug use.
The majority of those who use marijuana do not advance to “harder” substances, but, some research shows that people often try marijuana before trying other substances. Researchers are now looking at the possibility that marijuana exposure as a teen can cause changes in the brain that make a person more likely to get addicted to marijuana or other drugs, such as alcohol, opioids, or cocaine.
This week, to coincide with National Prevention Week, New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has launched a “Develop a Plan” campaign to encourage teens and young adults to get out of difficult situations involving alcohol and other drug use.
Remember, Prevention Works!