Marijuana is a complex situation because its legal status frequently and rapidly changes. A high percentage of teens report having used it in a survey beginning with 8th graders. “Medical marijuana” is available in 23 states. However, there are many myths surrounding marijuana and its use. All parents and teens should be aware of these myths.
· Myth #1 Marijuana is a medicine. Marijuana itself is not a medicine. Chemicals in marijuana have been extracted and used as a medicine to help nausea and vomiting in adult cancer patients. There are no Food and Drug Administration approved indications for medical marijuana. Adolescents are affected differently by marijuana than are adults.
· Myth #2 Marijuana is safe. Drops in IQ are reported in adulthood if youth are dependent on marijuana before they are 18. Even if smoking is light and even if the youth stops smoking, brain abnormalities occur and increase with use. These are not seen in individuals who begin marijuana smoking as an adult. Accompanying these brain abnormalities are symptoms such as changes in motivation, decision making, attention, functioning of memory, and processing of emotions.
· Myth #3 Marijuana can help mood symptoms. There is also no evidence that THC or other cannabinoids are useful in the treatment of mood or anxiety symptoms in adolescents. Marijuana may worsen several psychiatric problems. Using marijuana as an adolescent may significantly increase risk of developing schizophrenia as adults.
· Myth #4 Marijuana has no effect on school work. There are risks of long-term cognitive changes and psychiatric problems that can affect school performance. Frequent marijuana use can cause grades to drop, which can in interfere with completion of high school or college.
· Myth #5 Marijuana is not addictive. Unfortunately marijuana is addictive and studies show that nearly 9% of users will become addicted and can be as high as 50% in daily users. Again, risks are higher for adolescents. Remember that addiction describes continued use despite that use causing significant legal, social, or school and work problems.
· Myth #6 Marijuana does not affect driving. Marijuana causes increased risk of accidents by slowing down motor coordination, judgment, and reaction time, similar to alcohol use.
Driving while intoxicated – even with legal use marijuana – is a criminal offense.
Both parents and youth should be aware of the facts surrounding marijuana, including the fact that over the years, the potency of marijuana has increased because of changes in its processing.