Rehab Arizona Facility Spotlights How Marijuana Changes Brain Development
The topic of legalizing marijuana has, in some cases, turned the topic of drug use into a political debate rather than a scientific one. As Americans ease restrictions on purchasing and smoking marijuana, teens are responding by lighting up in celebration. An analysis of 1991-2017 U.S. federal health data on more than 200,000 high school students indicates teens today are smoking roughly 10x more pot than adolescence from a generation ago. Teen marijuana use rose from 0.6% in 1991 to 6.3% by 2017. Many specialists in rehab Arizona are realizing is that these teens are consuming what they believe to be a harmless drug, unaware of how marijuana changes brain development in teens.
Marijuana Use Among Teens
While teen use of tobacco and alcohol has decreased over the past decade, marijuana use is on the rise. Statistics on marijuana use shows smoking becomes more prominent as adolescents progress throughout their teen years.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2016 the following age groups reported using marijuana at least once in the past month:
- 5% of students in 8th grade
- 14% of students in 10th grade
- 23% of students in 12th grade
- 22% of college students and young adults
High school seniors showed a particularly alarming rate of increase in marijuana use. An analysis of drug and alcohol use among 12th graders from 2007 to 2017 notes at least a 10 percent usage drop of alcohol and cigarettes, but marijuana rose by four percentage points (19% to 23%) in that same time period.
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Misunderstanding How Marijuana Changes Brain
Part of the challenge with teen marijuana use is their misunderstanding or ignorance of how marijuana changes brain development, especially in teens. There’s a steady belief among adolescents that marijuana is a “light” drug that carries much less risk than other substances.
As many states consider legalizing the drug and current event headlines continue to monitor the opioid epidemic, there’s little being said about the negative effects of marijuana on the brain.
While drug specialists see marijuana as a “gateway” drug that has the potential to lead to more harmful substance use, teens see pot as a way to relax or harmless de-stressing tool. “When asked, ‘How much do you think people risk harming themselves (physically or in other ways) if they smoke marijuana regularly,’ less than one-third of high school seniors responded that there was a ‘great risk’ in 2016. Ten years ago, more than half of high school seniors (58%) believed it was a great risk,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, even when teens don’t use marijuana, their disapproval for those who do has vastly declined. In 2006, 83 percent of high school seniors disapproved of people 18 years or older smoking marijuana regularly. By 2016, only 69 percent disapproved.
Marijuana’s Effect On Teen Brain Development
Drugs change the way the brain functions when used at any age. But when marijuana is consumed by teens, the brain’s very development is altered. When someone smokes or vaporizes marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, passes from the lungs to the bloodstream, which carries it throughout the body. When THC hits the brain, it affects concentration, decision making, and memory.
THC attaches to the brain’s cells with receptors called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are part of the brain’s communication network and are typically activated by the body’s natural chemicals. These receptors are part of the portion of the brain that controls pleasure, memory, sensory and time perception, coordinated movement, and concentration.
Research shows that “teens who engage in heavy marijuana use often show disadvantages in neurocognitive performance, macrostructural and microstructural brain development, and alterations in brain functioning.” While many teens see the drug as harmless, marijuana use can have a permanent effect on the brain of an adolescent.
The drug can have “implications for academic functioning” and work-related functioning that extends into adulthood. The teenage years are life’s prime period to navigate difficult situations and grow mentally from intellectual and social stimulation, none of which is possible – at least to its fullest extent – when the brain is under the influence of THC.
Marijuana Rehab Arizona
What drug specialists at Desert Cove Recovery know about marijuana and your teen is that substance use disorder doesn’t create “bad kids.” With so much misinformation and lack of education on the effects of marijuana on a teen’s brain and body, our youth are left to assume there are no long-term damaging consequences. Our addiction specialists understand that no one recovery plan works for everyone, so we offer customization to every client. Contact our experienced team today to see how we can help you or a loved one escape the negative effects of substance use disorder.
Sources: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20190620/us-teens-pot-use-has-jumped-10-fold-since-1990s#1  https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/substance-use/marijuana/index.html  https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-development/substance-use/marijuana/index.html  http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2017.pdf  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930618/