Marijuana is a plant also known as cannabis. People sometimes use marijuana to get high, or intoxicated. The flowers, stems, seeds, and leaves of the marijuana plant can be dried and shredded and then smoked. People can smoke marijuana in the form of cigarettes (also called, joints or blunts) or by inhaling the smoke from bongs (water pipes). You may hear of other kinds of marijuana, such as Hashish, which is the resin of the marijuana plant. There are over 200 slang names for marijuana, including pot, weed, gangster, or chronic. It is the most commonly used drug after alcohol.
A chemical in the plant called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, changes a person's brain chemistry. The chemical is absorbed through the lungs and goes into the blood. THC causes the brain to release a chemical that makes a person feel "high." THC stays in the body's organs for several days. Marijuana is much more potent then it used to be. This can cause very serious health problems.
Some people say that "all high school kids use marijuana." This is definitely not the case. The majority of kids in school do not use marijuana, with only 5% of high school seniors report using marijuana every day. Although most kids don't use marijuana, between 10% and 33% have used marijuana in the last year.
There are a variety of reasons teens choose to get high. Some use because of peer pressure — trying to find a way to fit in with a group of peers. Some do it because they think that all teenagers get high. Some do it for fun. Often teenagers choose to get high because of stress in their life. It lets them temporarily escape from a stressful situation, or forget about the days problems. Many choose to get high because it lets them "chill" or relax.
Frequently doctors find that teens who get high are dealing with depression, a difficult family situation, or anxiety. Teens end up self-medicating with marijuana, rather than seeking help from a professional. Unfortunately, this can cause major problems that the teenager does not anticipate.
THC is used occasionally to help people with certain eye problems or severe pain or nausea from cancer and chemo. In these cases, a doctor can legally prescribe a pill form of THC. This is only legal in only a few states.
Yes. THC affects parts of the brain that control coordination and reaction time. Even a small amount of THC impairs driving ability. If combined with alcohol driving performance decreases even more dramatically.
Yes. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive. Often, a teen's use of marijuana turns from an occasional use into daily use. Teens start to need marijuana to deal with the day. People dependent on marijuana, like those dependent on other addictive drugs, have trouble quitting. They also have withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anger, depressed mood, headaches, restlessness, lack of appetite, and drug craving. This can make it difficult to stop using the drug.
Often, marijuana is referred to as a gateway drug. It is usually the first illegal drug a teenager tries. Not all people who use marijuana go on to use other drugs, but it is a risk. The younger people are (12, 13, or 14 years old) when they use marijuana for the first time, the greater the chance that they will go on to try "harder" drugs such as ecstasy, methamphetamine, mushrooms, LSD, cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs such as narcotics or stimulants. An additional concern is that people may mix in these other drugs with marijuana, without your teen even knowing it.
This is a complex question and evaluation. You may be able to notice changes in your teen's life.
If you have answered YES to any of these questions, then your teen may need help.
There are many ways to seek help. Talk to your teen about the problem. Call the school counselor and ask for help and guidance about substance use programs. Frequently schools have drug counseling classes. Your health care provider can help assess the severity of your teen's drug use problem and help you decide whether your teen would benefit from an outpatient drug treatment program or a more intensive inpatient setting. A health care provider can help sort out whether your teen is depressed, has ADHD, or another psychological problem that needs treatment.