While marijuana use (recreational and medical) is not legal for teens in any part of the United States, it seems teenage marijuana use is at its highest level in roughly 30 years. Should parents be concerned?

The evidence for and against marijuana can be overwhelming, especially with the proliferation of new CBD-based and THC-based products and consumables, and the use of CBD and other cannabinoids for the treatment of seizures and the potential treatment of pain and depression. This can be confusing, as there is also evidence for marijuana’s ill effects.

Marijuana as a drug must be differentiated from CBD-based products, which isolate one cannabinoid within the drug (cannabidiol, CBD) and typically strip the drug of its psychoactive component (tetrahydrocannabinol, THC).

Marijuana must also be differentiated from synthetic cannabinoids, which are artificial analogs with a potency multiplied by factors of ten to a hundred, often with disastrous results.

Is Marijuana Use Harmful to my Teen?

Marijuana use is illegal for children and teens, which is an important thing to note. Your child should not be using marijuana, as doing so comes with legal consequences. Even in states with the most progressive laws on recreational cannabis, the minimum age for cannabis use is still 21.

While marijuana has been linked to adverse effects both in the short-term and long-term, most of the evidence seems to suggest the long-term harm of regular cannabis use is low. Tobacco and alcohol, which are also available for legal recreational use to adults, cause more harm and damage to the brain and body.

Again, this does not make marijuana healthy, and its effects on teens are still more pronounced than its effects on adults. When smoked, marijuana use is still linked to lung cancer. Short-term marijuana use, as with any other strong psychoactive drug, can also lead to risk-taking behavior and poorer decision making.

Furthermore, THC has a unique link to psychosis and schizophrenia, making it a more dangerous drug for teens with a family history of psychotic episodes and schizophrenic symptoms. Even in states and countries where recreational cannabis use is legal, researchers advise adults to beware of high doses of THC and the risk of psychosis for those with a cannabis sensitivity.

If you are worried your teen is using marijuana illegally, there are a few signs they may have recently been using the drug. These include:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Nervous behavior
  • Slowed speech and reaction times
  • Dry mouth and increased appetite
  • Impaired memory and judgment
  • Poor coordination

Treating Codependent Marijuana Abuse at Visions

While marijuana may not be as harmful as other drugs, it correlates more heavily with mental health issues. Researchers cannot find evidence to suggest marijuana causes these mental health issues – but the correlation may be explained by self-medication. Teens are more likely to turn to heavy or chronic marijuana use to relax and take their mind off thoughts and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. In doing so, however, they may simply be masking the problem.

Like any other drug, long-term use can lead to a dependence on the drug, which can impair everyday life and get in the way of normal responsibilities at work and home. At Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, we focus on treating codependent marijuana abuse in teens by addressing both the drug use and the underlying factors, physical and mental.

Inpatient Treatment

Our inpatient program at Visions relies on several therapeutic tools to help cope with cravings, and address unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to addiction and mental health. Every teen’s treatment plan is uniquely formulated to account for their needs and circumstances, typically involving a mixture of individual and group therapy, medication, and alternative treatments.

Outpatient Treatment and PHP

For teens and adults for whom our inpatient program is not a good fit, we also have an outpatient facility providing treatments and resources for individuals with a dual diagnosis of mental health and addiction.

The long-term use of marijuana may be keeping your teen from getting the help they need to cope with their symptoms more effectively. In cases of schizophrenia and certain personality disorders, marijuana use may be making things worse. At Visions, we help teens turn towards healthier coping mechanisms, and coordinate with their families and communities to help them seek long-term support for their recovery and mental wellbeing.


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