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Recently there has been a big push to support legal efforts to legalize marijuana. Public support for it is at an all-time high, and you can’t browse the Web, watch TV or listen to the radio these days without hearing about it on the news. There are several sides of the issue, and even President Barack Obama gave his opinion about it when he recently stated that he did not think pot was any more dangerous than alcohol.
In a similar news story, Justin Bieber was recently arrested for DUI, and he freely admitted that he had been smoking pot at the same time he was driving (CNN). Like most young adults, he probably thinks that smoking pot will not hurt you.
Unfortunately, these news reports and similar stories may be having an undesired effect on America’s youth because a lot of impressionable teens may be getting the idea that marijuana use is harmless. An attorney who handles juvenile criminal cases http://www.devorelawoffice.com/duluth-criminal-defense-lawyer/ reminds us that “When you are accused of a crime, it’s vital to get legal help as soon as possible to assuage the situation. Knowing which option is the right one can be difficult, and actually defending yourself in court and building a claim can be almost impossible without advanced legal knowledge”
Statistics may support this reasoning because the Coalition Against Drug Abuse says that, “In 2009, 28.5 million Americans aged twelve and older had abused marijuana at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.”1 That’s a particularly unnerving statistic for a mom to read about, and juveniles can get into serious trouble when they smoke pot. Marijuana use can lead to health problems, jail time, car crashes and several other issues.
No mom wants to find out that their teen is using marijuana, especially if they are up to their neck in projects at work. It makes you feel guilty as a parent to think that way, but it is something that we ladies in the workforce sometimes have to think about and cope with. Working moms dread disruption in our often well-planned out day, but damage control is necessary when you find out that your teenager is using marijuana.
Taking time from your busy schedule can show your teen that you love them even when they mess up. It is something that must be handled the right way to be fair to you and your family. First, you have to understand why marijuana is bad for your teen, so you can arm yourself with the right knowledge for those discussions you need to have with them.
The Science Behind Marijuana Use
Ooookay, here’s the science of why heavy pot smoking hurts your kid’s developing brain, and why they won’t stick around and listen to why it does (or any other conversation that is similar to why you don’t think it is important for them to wear Abercrombie).
On one hand there is an area in the front of the brain known as the Prefrontal Cortex that is developing until they are about 25. This area controls complex reasoning, judgement and learning.
On the other hand, there is a spot in your teenager’s brain that is pretty much fairly developed. It’s named the Nucleus Accumbens, and it seeks pleasure and reward.2 It is the annoying part of your kid’s brain that wants to play video games all the time and ride the bicycle off the roof. On the down side, this is the part of their brain that makes them more likely to be addicted to substances such as marijuana.
So what does this mean to you and your teen? The underdeveloped part of the brain that controls complex reasoning and learning is going to be suppressed in pot smokers. The lack of reasoning paired with a strong desire for gratification explains typical teenage behavior, and why they may be at risk of smoking pot.
Negative Psychological Effects
There is a virtual wealth of organizations conducting research to see how smoking marijuana affects the developing brain of a teen. Many have found out that the effects of its use can have many negative consequences on many mental functions.
Diminished Brain Function
Smoking pot permanently stunts development of wiring in the area of the Prefrontal Cortex. If your teen is smoking a lot of pot, they are hurting the overall functionality of their brain. Marijuana use hurts areas of complex reasoning, learning and judgement in your teenager. Stress to your teen that it’s going to be important to have those skills throughout their entire life.
Addiction and Resistance
Your teen can become addicted to marijuana because it stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain and can cause them to crave a constant high. The drug’s effect often helps teens cope with the stress of school, girlfriend or boyfriend trouble, etc. Soon it will take more to achieve the same high. Going through life high all the time is not the answer for them, and is probably covering up bigger issues.
Depression and Mental Illness
If your teen smokes a lot of pot they may experience emotional problems. Users have reported anxiety and personality disturbances, but the most commonly reported side effect of long term use is depression. Long-term marijuana users are even at risk of developing schizophrenia, a serious mental illness!3 There is enough angst in the teen years already without adding the extra baggage that pot smoking brings. Let your teenager know that.
Severe Consequences a Plenty
There are more issues with smoking pot than health problems, and sometimes they can lead to disastrous and/ or severe consequences for your teenager. For instance, if your teen is caught in Maine with less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana it is considered a civil violation. The fine for that ranges from $350 to $1,000, and if they get caught with more than that, it is considered a felony or misdemeanor, and then they can be put in jail.4 It’s up to you as a responsible parent to help your teen understand the physical and legal consequences of smoking pot.
Gateway to Other Drugs
Marijuana has been known to be a gateway to other drugs, and the risk of using cocaine later on is higher for marijuana users.5 Your teen is also going to be buying pot from people who use and sell drugs. As you know, drug dealers are not model citizens. Your teen is going to be in an environment that will increase the likelihood of them trying more drugs if they are buying their marijuana from dealers.
Impaired Driving Skills
Teen driving and marijuana can be a dangerous combination. “It is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14 percent of drivers), sometimes in combination with alcohol or other drugs.”6 The teenage years are when people get behind the wheel of a car for the first time in their life. Marijuana has surpassed alcohol as the drug of choice for teen drivers. Teens need to know that THC, a main component in pot will impair their driving skills. THC affects the basal ganglia, a portion of the brain teens use for movement control.7
As a result, when teens smoke marijuana it may cause them to have car accidents. Teen drivers who smoke pot are more likely to have slow reaction times and problems responding to signals and sounds which may cause them to have a wreck, too.
Big Legal Problems
If the police arrest your teen for possession of marijuana, the consequences can be moderate to severe. Schools can suspend or even expel your teen for a very long time. The incident will be on their school record if they try to get into the college of their choice later. The college may never let them in.
The legal system may issue fines, assign probation periods where drug testing is mandatory, give community service or make them attend drug counseling classes. On the harsher end of the spectrum, jail time may be involved, so it is important to seek legal help if this happens.
Teen marijuana use has recently reached a thirty-year high. That makes it sound like an epidemic that can’t be controlled. It CAN be controlled in your household, though. Take them aside and talk to them about the many negatives that the use of marijuana can bring to their lives. Let them know that even though the news can make pot smoking sound pretty awesome, it can really mess up their dreams for the future. Listen to them and get to the root of what makes them want to experiment with pot in the first place.
Holly Chavez is a multidisciplinary writer who enjoys writing entertaining and offbeat articles for families to enjoy. You can catch up to her on twitter @hollyleichavez