Marijuana is a plant also known as cannabis. Teens sometimes use marijuana to get high. The plant is usually dried and shredded and then smoked like a cigarette (called joints or blunts). Sometimes the smoke is inhaled 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 THC, causes a person to get high. The chemical is absorbed through the lungs and goes into your blood. THC causes the brain to release a chemical that makes you feel "high." THC stays in your body's organs for several days. Marijuana is much more potent then it used to be. Marijuana can cause very serious health problems.
There are a variety of reasons teens choose to get high. You may get high because:
THC is used occasionally to help people with certain eye problems or who suffer severe pain or nausea from cancer or chemo. In these cases, a doctor can legally prescribe a pill form of THC. This is only legal in a few states.
Yes. Because THC affects parts of the brain that control coordination and reaction time, your ability to drive is impaired when using marijuana. 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 occasional use into daily use. Users say they 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 you are- especially if you are 12, 13, or 14 when you use marijuana the first time, the greater the chance that you will go on to try "harder" drugs such as ecstasy, methamphetamine, mushrooms, LSD, cocaine, heroin, or prescription drugs such as narcotics and stimulants. An additional concern is that often people mix in these other drugs with marijuana, without you even knowing it.
Just like any decision you make, you need to look at the risks and benefits of that choice, and how it may affect you. There are serious short-term and long-term medical and psychological affects that are outlined in this handout. Additional information that can influence your decision is what your parents think about your using marijuana. Are there consequences at home, or in school? Certainly it is illegal to use marijuana, and if caught at school, or in the community by police, you are breaking the law and may have criminal charges filed against you. Often, students are suspended and made to take drug classes in a school setting. Ultimately you make the choice. If you do choose to use, carefully think about why you are making that choice and try to get help for the underlying reasons addressed by a health professional.
There are several areas of your life to examine to see whether or not marijuana or other drugs are affecting your life.
If you have answered YES to any of these questions, then your marijuana use is causing problems that need to be addressed.
There are many ways you can get help.
You can talk with a professional about your substance use confidentially. Unless it is a life threatening situation, your parents do not need to know, though including them in the discussion can be helpful in dealing with the problem.