Mixed Messages about Marijuana
GenPsych January 2017
Explaining the risks of Marijuana use to kids. Throughout the United States and particularly in New Jersey citizens have voted in favor of legalizing the recreational and medical use of marijuana. Many states have also decriminalized the personal use of marijuana.
While these measures are mainly focused on adults, they create a misunderstanding of the emotional and physical risks that marijuana poses to young people. This confusion leads to the false belief that if something is “legal” or “medical” it is not harmful.
What are the Risks for Young People
Research has proven over and over again that the early use of alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs greatly increases the risk of addiction along with a variety of other developmental problems for young people.
But, as the laws change and marijuana is constantly in the news cycle, teens perceive less risk in the recreational use of marijuana.
Media coverage has led to a number of misconceptions about medical marijuana and has largely ignored two critical facts: 1) smoked marijuana is not a ‘medicine’; and 2) the more misinformation that gets to the public stating that marijuana is medicine, the more youth will view it as harmless and the more likely they will be to use it.
There is a direct connection between the legal, medical use of marijuana by adults and the illegal, recreational use by children between the ages of 12 to 17.
How to Educate Kids
Don’t be fooled about the risks of marijuana use in adolescents
There are several helpful websites you can review to inform yourself on this issue, they include:
Keep in mind that many of the same risks apply to both alcohol and marijuana use. Marijuana use comes with legal risks, impairs driving ability, interferes with normal brain function and exposes young people to drug dependency the same as underage drinking and other mind-altering chemicals do.
While marijuana use may now be legal for adults in some states, it remains illegal for underage use in all states. Young people can get into serious trouble for using or having marijuana in their possession.
Speak with your children and correct the misconception that marijuana is harmless. Explain how misinformation can enable harmful behavior.
Setting the record straight
An important part of the effort to keep kids healthy is to provide them with accurate information. Due to modern culture, teenagers have a tendency to greatly overestimate the amount and frequency of alcohol and drug use by older people. This misconception needs to be corrected, consider the following;
Fewer students consumed alcohol for the first time before age 13 in 2015 than in 2013.
Fewer students used marijuana, once or more in their lifetime, in 2015 than in 2013.
Most students and 71% of high school seniors in 2015 disapprove of regular marijuana smoking.
Nine out of 10 high school students have not used cigarettes in the past 30 days.
Students who say they probably or definitely will complete four years of college have lower rates of illicit drug use than do those who say they probably or definitely will not.
Two out of three high school seniors have not used marijuana in the past 30 days. Three out of every four high school students in general, combining grades 9-12, have not used marijuana in the past 30 days.
Attack the myths head-on. Most teens in the U.S. do not use marijuana. Don’t let the hype hide the fact that youth who use marijuana are the minority not the norm and the use of marijuana comes with real risks.
GenPsych’s intensive outpatient program has five treatment centers location throughout New Jersey. If you or anyone you know is struggling with a substance abuse, get help today.