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While teen marijuana use disorder (recreational and medical) is not legal for underage adolescents 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 and THC-based products, consumables and other cannabinoids used for treating seizures, pain, depression and more. This can be confusing, as there is also evidence of the negative effects of teen marijuana use disorder.

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 Teen Marijuana Use Disorder Harmful?

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
  • Dry mouth and increased appetite
  • Poor coordination
  • Slowed speech and reaction
  • Impaired memory and judgment

Teen Marijuana Abuse Treatment

While teen marijuana use disorder 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 Treatment Centers, our teen marijuana use disorder treatment programs focus on addressing both the drug use and the underlying factors, physical and mental.

Inpatient Treatment

Our inpatient teen marijuana use disorder treatment programs rely on several therapeutic tools to help cope with cravings, and address unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to addiction and mental health. Every teen marijuana use disorder treatment plan is uniquely formulated to account for their unique needs and circumstances, typically involving a mixture of individual and group therapy, medication, and alternative treatments.

Outpatient Treatment and PHP

For teens whom our inpatient program is not a good fit, we also have an outpatient facility that provides teen marijuana use disorder treatment and resources for those 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, teen marijuana use disorder may be making things worse. At Visions Treatment Centers, 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 well-being.


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