Whether you like it or not, there might come a time soon where marijuana is legal across the entire United States. For most, this seems like a good thing as a drug that’s already widely popular can finally be regulated and sold in a controlled manner. However, as we’ve seen in the past with how much an effect alcohol can have on our children, it begs the question: what about marijuana?
It’s no secret that marijuana has widely been accepted as the first illegal most teenagers choose to experiment with. After all, from a youthful perspective, it can seem relatively harmless, providing no side-effects that produce any harm or even run the risk of overdosing. Even still, this isn’t an activity that kids should be doing (at least until they’re older). Here’s why:
The Growing Issue
As marijuana has become a hot button issue over the past few years, its usage has continuously increased. According to the NIDA, in 2007, only 6.7% of teenagers had used marijuana; however, that number has now skyrocketed to around 33%. With legalization becoming much more prevalent from state to state, some have theorized that this is negatively affecting children. However, that doesn’t give a full-scope of how drugs are used across the board, as well as what to look out for.
According to a survey relayed by The New York Times, when it comes to other drugs, it can be a mixed bag on usage. For example, alcohol use has decreased to just 9.6%, while prescription drug abuse is skyrocketing among teens, with estimates coming in the millions that have tried or currently use. While some argue that the leading cause of this is marijuana usage as a ‘gateway drug,’ that argument is archaic and lacks solid backing. Quite simply, teens abuse alcohol because it’s always been accessible nationwide, and prescription drugs can largely be credited towards over medication both for teens and parents.
Whether you’re in a state that has legal marijuana or not, it’s important to have an honest conversation with your child that marijuana is something that can be consumed as an adult. Especially when you consider the risks.
Long Term Effects
It’s no secret that drug usage in our teens can have grave effects on us when we’re older. And while the jury is still out on if there’s a direct correlation between cannabis usage and the onset of problems, later on, there are a few things we can say for certain on its effects, particularly with brain development.
As noted in a piece by NPR, marijuana can have grave effects on our brains in our youth. In the article, director of brain imaging and neuropsychology at The University of Wisconsin, Krista Lisdahl had this to say about the potential effects:
“During the teenage years, our brain is getting rid of those connections that weren't really used, and it prunes back. It actually makes the brain faster and more efficient.” However, when it comes to marijuana usage, Lisdahl suggests that our formative years can be one of the worst times to smoke, especially considering “it’s the last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible."
Beyond brain development, marijuana can also have some other effects you might not consider. For example, its impact on factors like depression and anxiety amongst teens is undetermined, but so far, it has been linked to being a negative catalyst. Additionally, there are the elements of how marijuana can affect social dynamics and formations as well, which should be something you note when speaking with your child on if they use or not.
What You Can Do Moving Forward
Whether you’ve found out your kids are using marijuana or not, it’s important to have an open, honest conversation with them about it. Explain how it can overtake their social circles, their work, and even the activities they love doing. Chances are they might try to say “yeah, but it’s legal now” or even, “you said you did it when you were a kid.” In this case, it’s important to remind them of not only the health benefits but how your average adult consumes in moderation.
Honestly, this is never an easy discussion to have with your child, but it’s an important one. As we all want our children to have healthy, balanced lives, it’s important to remind yourself how to nurture that. To them, it’s not fair to say “do as I say, not as I do,” which makes sense. Instead, try taking the approach of “I can do this because I’ve stopped growing and hold down my responsibilities.” Remember, this is supposed to be healthy dialogue, and who knows? Perhaps you both could learn from it.