Marijuana is a controversial topic and there are conflicting opinions about its safety and addictive potential. Some people think the drug is harmless while others believe it is a dangerous substance that should be avoided at all costs.
Usually marijuana use is legal and acceptable only when it is used to relieve certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma or HIV/AIDS.
Either way, marijuana is a drug and abuse of any drug creates certain negative consequences. The complications are significantly increased when marijuana use begins during the teen years.
- Marijuana is the drug most commonly abused by adolescents and young adults.
- Approximately one in six people who begin using marijuana as a teenager will become addicted. The younger the person is at the time of first use, the higher the potential that addiction will result.
- Marijuana affects attention, learning and memory, often lasting long after primary effects of the drug have worn off.
- People who begin using marijuana in the teen years generally display lower IQs than non-users.
- Marijuana use is associated with lower academic performance and an increased probability of dropping out of school. Often, marijuana prevents young people from completing their education or reaching their full potential.
- A marijuana high impairs reaction time and affects balance, motor coordination and judgment.
- Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are huge risk factors for addiction, especially for adolescents and young adults.
- Marijuana soothes feelings of sadness and anxiety, but it becomes a dangerous trap when tolerance sets in and more of the drug is required to relieve negative feelings, stress and tension.
- Use of marijuana often leads to other addictions, including alcohol or cocaine. For adolescents and young adults, co-occurring addictions are most prevalent when mental illnesses are present.
- Young marijuana addicts tend to lose interest in other aspects of life as they are increasingly controlled by the drug. They lack motivation and tend to have poor social lives. They often stagnate in their maturation process and remain "childlike".
- Like other addictions, marijuana addiction is a progressive illness that tends to become worse over time.
- Marijuana users often minimize their addiction, or justify use of the drug because “other drugs are much worse.”
- Friends and family members tend to enable young marijuana addicts by giving them money or bailing them out of legal trouble. Although this is usually done out of loyalty, love or responsibility, enabling allows the addicted person to postpone the negative consequences, which ultimately delays much-needed early treatment.
- Withdrawal from marijuana is challenging and uncomfortable, but not life-threatening. Marijuana addicts are unlikely to overdose and die.
- Marijuana withdrawal is much like severe nicotine withdrawal. Although usually less pronounced than drugs such as alcohol, opiates or benzodiazepines, withdrawal is often associated with unpleasant symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, mood swings, depression, headaches, anxiety and cravings.
- In some cases of severe addiction, withdrawal from marijuana may cause dangerous or unpleasant symptoms such as paranoia or panic attacks.