Treatment for Teens

Marijuana Treatment for Teens

From 2008 to 2009, the rate of illicit drug use among youths (ages 12 to 17) increased from 16.5 to 18.1 percent. The cause of this increase? It was driven largely by an increase in the use of marijuana. This is according to a 2009 survey on National Health and Drug Use (NSDUH). In addition from 2008 to 2009, the average age of first-time marijuana users decreased from 17.8 to 17.0 years. Between 14 and 17 years old, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug.  Teenagers (and even some pre-teens) are actively using marijuana and setting themselves up for a lifetime of addiction to illicit drugs.

Causes of Addiction

The question then becomes how and why teens are becoming more addicted to marijuana. For starters, many teens are interested in experimentation and marijuana is considered a “safe” drug. Many people believe marijuana to not be addictive, which encourages young people to use this as a means of experimenting. Using an illegal drug that is believed to have little or no consequence to their health and well-being appears to be a viable option. In 2009, according to the NSDUH, the number of teens that perceived “great risk” in smoking marijuana one or two times a week decreased from 55 percent in 2005 to 49.3 percent in 2009. Comparatively, those who perceived smoking one pack of cigarettes a day as “great risk” was 65.8 percent. According to most teens, smoking cigarettes poses a greater risk to their long-term health than smoking marijuana recreationally. Interestingly, the lack of filters in marijuana joints means those consuming marijuana are exposed to more carcinogens than those smoking cigarettes. Even so, a majority of teens seem to feel it is the safer choice.


The Effects

There is a direct correlation between illicit drug usage in teens and decreased academic performance. A sharp decline should be considered a warning sign for any parent suspicious that their teenager using illicit drugs:

  • Marijuana impairs concentration and short-term memory. Teenagers who use marijuana regularly are less likely to be able to retain information learned in their classes. A student with a “D” average is four times more likely to use or have used marijuana than a student with an “A” average.
  • Marijuana usage is related to an increase in teenage dropout rates. Users are twice as likely as non-users to drop out of high school.

The mental and physical health of teenagers is also at risk when they beginning using illicit drugs.

  • Weekly use of marijuana doubles the risk of depression in teens, putting them at increased risk for other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety and suicide.
  • Already depressed teens are twice as likely to begin using marijuana.
  • Teens who are depressed and use marijuana are more likely to become addicted to it. Eight percent of depressed teens abused or became dependent on marijuana compared to only three percent of teens who were not suffering from depression
  • Depressed teens are more likely to turn to drug use than depressed adults. Twenty-five percent of depressed teens used marijuana in the course of a year verses 19 percent of depressed adults.
  • Teenagers who do become abusers of marijuana are more likely to continue this pattern throughout their lives, putting them at risk for some of the other long-term effects of marijuana usage, like COPD and lung cancer.

This is according to the ONDCP National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign site.


How To Prevent and Treat

Prevention is the most important role a parent can play in helping their teens avoid marijuana addiction. Parental involvement is critical to prevention. In the same 2009 NSDUH report, it was noted that only 4.8 percent of youths who perceived strong parental disapproval used marijuana; 31.3 percent of teens who did not perceive strong parental disapproval used marijuana. The National Youth Anti-Drug Campaign provides literature for parents to help discourage and prevent teen drug usage. Parents are encouraged not to write off erratic behavior as a “phase” and instead remain active participants in their child’s life. Keeping the relationship open and being involved are the best ways parents can help their children avoid drugs.

If a teenager does become involved in drug use, parents need to be aware and prepared to seek the appropriate substance abuse and mental health treatment. Recreational drug use may seem harmless at first but can develop into something much more serious. When prevention fails, the same communication and openness principles can be used to get your teen the help they need.