According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “[i]n 2013, there were 19.8 million. Current users—about 7.5 percent of people aged 12 or older—up from 14.5 million (5.8 percent) in 2007” (“Nationwide Trends” 1). Marijuana use has increased by approximately 2 million users of teenagers within the span of 6 years. With the increasing popularity, people have begun to incorporate in their everyday language. By referring it in different ways, such as, “weed, herb, pot, grass, ganga, Mary Jane” (NIDA: “Marijuana” 5).
However, marijuana is actually referred to by its scientific name, Cannabis. It comes from the family of Cannabacea, which also includes the other species, like hemp (“What is Cannabis Sativa?”). Within the Cannabacea family, there is one other plant, called Humulus Lupulus that makes up the herb called hops (Hodgson). Each species has a different purpose and potency level of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present. For instance, “[i]ndustrial hemp often contains less than 1% THC… marijuana typically contain 2 to 5% THC” (Earleywine 128). On the other hand, hops do not contain any level of THC and essentially gives beer its bitter taste (Hodgson). Furthermore, the commercial market has made marijuana more acceptable for all ages by making it more consumable.
For instance edibles; “like coffee, ice cream, condiments, granola, gum, candy, baked goods, suppositories,” blunts, pipes, vaporizes, weed pods (Cort). Therefore, with the creation of various methods available for the public; smokers and nonsmokers. Although it has created the idea an image of marijuana like a dessert, teenagers should be aware of what it is and its effects before indulging in the trend. It is commonly known that smoking, in general, can be detrimental to the health of individuals, no matter what substance is used. However, many of the methods available on the market for marijuana require the substance to be smoked. According to the NIDA, a puff of marijuana smoke can cause for a disruption in the homeostasis of the body; heart rate increases by two or three times the normal beat per minute. Blood pressure also increases drastically, which could evidently lead to inducing a heart attack and ultimately hinder the heart from effectively pumping blood (“Marijuana” 31). Smoking weed is not any better than smoking cigarettes.
In fact, “[m]arijuana smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers, which leads to a greater exposure per breath to tar” (“Marijuana and Lung Health”). The longer one holds their breath, the stronger the effect of the high; resulting in a dysfunctional respiratory system. However, with long-term and consistent use, it can lead to bullous lung disease, chronic bronchitis, shortness of breath, and infections within the respiratory system (“Marijuana” 29). With the increase in substance use among the younger generations, it will only hinder them from participating in strenuous activities and living the normal life of a child. Thus, the horrifying consequences of succumbing to the trend of smoking marijuana is unbefitting and will only jeopardize the lives of the youth. Studies have shown that a person’s education can be affected when using marijuana. A teenager’s academic success can be affected in terms of school work, thoughts and memory. It has been proved that “At the adolescent stage the brain has not completed its maturation. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), the brain area responsible for executive functions and attention performance, is one of the last brain areas to mature and is still developing during adolescence” (Goriounova and Mansvelder 1).
The executive functions of this portion of the brain are responsible for personality, planning and other complex cognitive behavior; these are crucial in the ability to function effectively and independently. In fact, ”The development and maturation of the prefrontal cortex occurs primarily during adolescence and is fully accomplished at the age of 25 years” (Arain, Mariam et al. 459). Waiting until the age of 25 to engage in any acts that demonstrate adulthood, such as smoking, drinking, or using illicit drugs is the most secure technique to ensure that the brain has reached maturation. Moreover, IQ (Intelligence Quotient) levels were affected when teenagers used marijuana but had stopped in their mid-adulthood. An average of 6% to 8% on IQ points was lost (“Marijuana” 17). Supplementary to the findings, it was determined that “[a] recent analysis using data from three large studies in Australia and New Zealand found that adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree” (“Marijuana” 22). In short, marijuana use has adverse effects on a teenager’s future if not used in moderation.
It was also discussed in a study that there was a positive correlation between marijuana use and amotivational syndrome. Amotivational syndrome is the lack of drive to engage in goal-oriented activities (Lac and Luk 121). According to Earleywine, in a study conducted by Pihl and Sigal in 1978, researchers had found that even though intoxicated people were offered money as an incentive, there was almost little to no motivation and performance present compared to those who did not smoke marijuana (200). Simply, people are not as active and can not be persuaded to be more productive than those who are not intoxicated. Moreover, “The American Academy of Pediatrics said that adverse effects of teen marijuana use include ‘impaired short-term memory and decreased concentration, attention span, and problem solving, which clearly interfere with learning. Alterations in motor control, coordination, judgment, reaction time, and tracking ability have also been documented; these may contribute to unintentional deaths and injuries” (ProCon.org).
All in all, using this substance at such a critical period of growing and maturing, it will interfere with the efficiency of everyday functions. When marijuana is used for an extended amount of time, it can create mental health issues. As discussed by Nora D. Volkow et al., “Heavier marijuana use, greater drug potency, and exposure at a younger age can all negatively affect the disease trajectory (e.g., by advancing the time of a first psychotic episode by 2 to 6 years)” (2221). To put it simply, teenagers who smoke are more susceptible to developing psychotic symptoms of depression and are at a greater risk of having psychotic-like experiences (PLEs) (Whiteman). This contradicts the sole purpose of marijuana because it is supposed to induce feelings of relaxation, happiness, and energize a person, rather than the latter. In fact, recent research has found that individuals who carried a specific variant of the AKT1 or catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene were more inclined to psychoses (“Marijuana” 24-25). Furthermore, while this is a temporary effect of marijuana use, “[i]nexperienced users are more likely to panic, particularly if they smoke a great deal in a short time“ (Earleywine 145).
Typically, inexperienced users are teenagers that do not know how marijuana can affect them. This eventually leads to first time users to evidently take a larger dosage if they do not immediately feel the effects of the high, whether through consuming an edible or smoking. As a result, users start experiencing “many signs of discomfort, including anxiety, paranoia, and visual hallucinations (Earleywine 145).” Thus, whether one is a teenager or an adult, people will evidently experience these symptoms. While there are several negative effects presented above, some researchers have found countless health benefits that come with the use of marijuana. For instance, Loria of Business Insider mentions how “[a] chemical found in marijuana stops cancer from spreading, at least in cell cultures” (“23 Health Benefits of Marijuana”). As of the 21stCentury, there are still issues with cancer, regardless of how technologically advanced the world has become (Reno). Cancer is unlike the common cold or other illnesses that have remedies available; it is such a rapid reproduction of abnormal cells that eventually cause other systems to fail, as a result of the blockage (“Cancer Basics”).
With the news of evidence that one can take to prevent cancer, it can revolutionalize the use of marijuana. Simply, people even teenagers will be encouraged to use marijuana because of its beneficial effects on their health; essentially hindering the formation of cancerous cells. Moreover, Loria mentions how “THC may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s disease is dementia that causes memory, thinking, and behavior problems that normally begin as a result of increasing age of 65 years and older (“What Is Alzheimer’s?”). People are bound to grow older and become elders. Considering marijuana has been proven to delay the development of dementia, this allows for those of old age to still be able to complete daily functions without the assistance of another person. All in all, marijuana can help prevent diseases that come with old age and hinder the process of incurable diseases. In spite of all the benefits, it is illogical for teenagers to have the mindset of marijuana use as being beneficial. For example, while it may decrease the chance of acquiring cancer or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain of teenagers have yet to be fully developed. As stated previously, the human brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, but teenagers range from the age of 12 to 18 years old (Arain, Mariam et al. 459). By using this substance, it can cause deformities in the brain. In a study created by Wilson et al., in 2000 researchers had used MRIs and found, “smaller brains, a lower percentage of gray matter, and a higher percentage of white matter in adults who started smoking marijuana before the age of 17” (Earleywine 149). This illustrates how while one may not experience any major changes once they begin to use marijuana, but when they begin to use it consistently, it will cause structural damage to the brain.
This idea is similar to how pregnant women are advised to not consume any alcohol, drugs or smoke because it can cause defects in the development of the baby. Hence, researchers may have found positive outcomes within the use of cannabis however, the negative outcomes outweigh the pros. With the recent legalization of marijuana in many states, regardless of the age limit of 21 years old to buy marijuana, it has allowed teenagers to easily gain access to this substance. Teenagers are at the midpoint of their lives where they are almost a step closer to becoming adults. However, with the constant exposure to drugs and alcohol, this has induced them to also take part in using these substances. While there have been positive effects with the use of cannabis, it is not enough to conclude that marijuana is essential to living a longer and healthier future. Therefore, it has been exposed to the population that long-term use of marijuana has been linked to several detrimental effects to one’s physical health, mental health, and academic success of an individual.
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