* Marijuana (Youth)
What is marijuana?
- Marijuana is a mixture of the dried and shredded parts of the hemp plant. It can look green, brown or gray and contains nearly 400 chemicals. The main component of marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and it causes mind altering effects when taken as it changes how chemicals work inside the brain and distorts how the mind sees the world, often refer to as getting “high”.1 There are different components of the drug that comes in stronger forms such as sinsemilla, hashish, and hash oil.
- Marijuana is commonly smoked through pipes, water pipes (“bongs”) or through hand-rolled cigarettes (“joints”). It can also be combined with cigarettes, brewed in a tea or mixed with food (“edibles”). Hash oil has 3-5 times more THC than the actual plant and it is smoked, which leads to dangerous levels of intoxication that can require emergency treatment. Extracting the hash oil from the plant has also led to dangerous fires and explosions.2
Why is it dangerous / harmful?
- Marijuana is classified as an illegal substance that has no medical use and has high potential for abuse and can become addictive with longer use.3 It it the leading illegal drug used by teens and nearly 46% of 12th graders in the US report having used it one or more in their lifetime.4 The amount of THC available in marijuana has increased in the past few decades and such increase can have an impact on a individual’s health. Marijuana triggers activity in the brain that causes the creation of pleasurable feelings. It causes changes in mood, lack of coordination, difficulty in thinking and concentrating and can affect learning and memory.5 It can also effect your judgment making skills and influence you to do things you may not normally do, such as engage in risky behaviors.6 Prolong use can impair brain development in teens, meaning that your brain may not reach its full potential if you constantly use marijuana.7
- The physical effects of marijuana can lead to increased heart rate, lung and breathing problems and increase risk for mental health problems, as marijuana has been linked to depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts in teens.8 With its abilities to alter your mind, it can also affect your performance in school and students who smoke have a higher rate of dropping out than those who don’t. It can impair your driving and is generally the most common drug involved in auto fatalities.9 It can also serve as a potential gateway into other, more dangerous drugs.
But you can’t overdose on marijuana so it’s fine to use a little, right?
- It is true that you cannot overdose and die from marijuana use. However, the effects of marijuana on your brain and body can lead to serious injuries and death. Marijuana’s impact on your judgement abilities means that you engage in risky behavior that you normally would not do. Risky behavior might be you getting into the car with someone who is also “high” on marijuana and can lead to fatal accidents.10 Risky behavior can also involve engaging in risky sexual behavior that can lead you to contracting a sexually transmitted disease that could severely impact your health.11 As a potential gateway drug, it could cause you to use other ore dangerous substances, such as meth or heroin which have been know to cause deaths.
Marijuana is now legalized in some states, so why should I care?
- As of 2014, 23 states that District of Colombia has passed laws allowing only for the use of marijuana as an alternative treatment for certain medical conditions.12 Even if you think marijuana is legalized, it does not mean it is safe. It it only legal under very specific circumstances so under federal law, buying, selling, and carry it is still illegal, especially under states that have not legalized marijuana.
- In states that have legalized it for recreational use, it is still illegal for those 21 and under, due to the its harmful effects on the teen brain and the risk of driving while under the influence.13 The danger with this is that not all places that dispense marijuana get it from the same source or whether it is safe or not. Marijuana is a plant and each plant varies in its chemical components and dosage, so the potential dangerous effects of marijuana varies and and still undetermined.
But what about medical marijuana?
- Medical marijuana is the use of specific chemicals within marijuana that are said to be effective in treating certain diseases and illnesses. Only 23 states and the District of Colombia have approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In this case, they are not advocating for the use of marijuana but specific chemicals within marijuana that have some evidence of treating certain diseases and illnesses. Specific medications have been created using chemicals inside marijuana called cannabinoids, such as THC, that have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and can be used to treat nausea in cancer patients and increase appetite in AIDS patients.14 Another cannabinoid is cannabidiol, which can be used to treat multiple sclerosis and severe epilepsy in children.15
- Marijuana as both a drug and as a medicine is still being researched and the full effects of it on the body and brain is still unclear.16 While many may argue that marijuana is “natural” due to it being a plant and different from man-made drugs, that does not change the fact that it can be dangerous for the body and brain and “natural” does not mean “safe”. It has dangerous mind altering properties and careful research is still being done to allow for the studying of specific components inside marijuana that can be extracted for the creation of medicine.17 Medical marijuana is not the same as marijuana, whose ingredients differ from plant to plant and is not exact or as safe as it can be, as there is currently no valid way to check marijuana for strength, ingredients or safety.18 To be clear, there is currently no medically approved use of marijuana for children or teen in any form.19