“If marijuana is legal, it must be safe – right?” It’s a lot more complicated than that. What if you’re a teen? Marijuana is illegal if you’re under 21. There are risks, especially for younger brains. To remember the risks, just think DDUMB. It stands for Dependence; Driving impairment; Underachievement; Mental illness; Bad to worse*.
Dependence: About 9% of first time marijuana users will become dependent. Teens are at a higher risk for dependence. Teens are two to four times more likely to become dependent within two years of starting marijuana than adults.
Driving impairment: Driving while under the influence of marijuana doubles or even triples the risk of a car crash. That is without drinking alcohol. When both are used, the combined impact is more dangerous than either alone.
Underachievement: Teen marijuana use is associated with low academic achievement. People who use marijuana have worse memories and attention. This is true even if they haven’t used marijuana for weeks. Having trouble concentrating makes it harder to write papers and take tests. It can make it harder to graduate or get into college. Marijuana users are also more likely to drop out of school.
Mental illness: Mental health is at risk when teens use marijuana. Teen girls who use marijuana daily are at the highest risk. They have up to five times the risk of having depression or anxiety later in life than people who never used marijuana. Marijuana use is associated with increased problems for people with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Bad to worse: “Soft drugs” like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are sometimes called gateway drugs to “harder drugs” like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. This can be hard to prove. Most people who use harder drugs started out using a soft drug. The first time most people used a harder drug they mixed it with a soft drug. Not everyone who uses marijuana will go on to use other drugs. However, some people will.
It is important to understand the risks related to marijuana. Using marijuana is DDUMB for teens. To learn more visit: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-teens/some-things-to-think-about.
Partners for Prevention is a community network dedicated to sustainable substance abuse prevention efforts for Rutland County youth and young adults. Stay connected by liking Partners for Prevention on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/partnersforprevention
*Source: MacDonald & Pappas, 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911936/