According to a 2017 nationwide study on teen drug use, nearly half of teenagers try marijuana at least once by their senior year of high school, making it the second most commonly abused drugs among young adults. Many teens experiment with marijuana use as a result of peer pressure or because they believe it will help them feel good, but they may not realize the drug can have a lasting impact on their brains.
How Marijuana Can Affect Young Adults’ Lives
While we still lack sufficient research into the purported health benefits of marijuana, we do know pot use can impair functions such as attention, memory, learning and decision-making, and that those effects can last for days after the high wears off. Smoking, vaping or ingesting marijuana can also lead to severe consequences for young adults, including poor performance in school, higher likelihood of dropping out and greater risk of unemployment.
Adolescents, in particular, may be more susceptible to experiencing lasting damage from marijuana use. We now know the brain continues to develop at least until age 25, and possibly even later. During this period of development, the brain is more vulnerable to damage from drug exposure. The frontal cortex, which is the region that controls planning, judgment, decision-making and personality, is also one of the last areas to fully develop.
One study found regular, heavy marijuana users — those who reported smoking five of the last seven days, and more than 2,500 times in their lives — had damage to their brains’ white matter, which helps facilitate communication among neurons. Those white matter changes correlated with less impulse control, especially for those who began smoking before age 16.
Teens’ endocannabinoid system is also still immature. This system comprises the physiological mechanisms that respond to the compounds found in the marijuana plant, and helps regulate cognition, neurodevelopment, stress response and emotional control. Repeated marijuana use can interfere with cellular activity in the endocannabinoid system, which might be another reason adolescents are more sensitive to the effects of the drug.
How to Talk to Your Son About Marijuana Use
As a parent, you know your teenaged son is probably curious about marijuana, and may already have tried it. With the drug becoming more normalized in pop culture, and available in more forms than ever before, it can be increasingly challenging to know where to start the conversation about the adverse effects of using pot. Though there’s no script for having this chat, here are some tips for making it easier.
- Stay open-minded. Never make your son feel as if you are judging or condemning his behavior.
- Be relaxed. Announcing an “important family meeting” will likely put your teen on the defensive. Instead, take a more casual approach.
- Don’t lecture. Think about how you felt at the same age. Teens may tune out a scolding tone, or worse, react with anger.
Improving Your Son’s Quality of Life at Spearhead Lodge
Though the cultural landscape is always shifting, one factor that will remain constant is your love for your son, and your desire to be a positive influence in his life. At Spearhead Lodge, we recognize there is a growing number of young adults with substance misuse issues, which is why we offer world-class, customized care for young men in Austin, Texas. We make it possible for these young men to move past their challenges and achieve a brighter future. Contact us to learn more about our approach.