Marijuana has been used, both legally and illegally for many years, but there are still many misconceptions about it—especially when it comes to its use by teens. The legalization of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use has been growing rapidly across the country, so it’s critical that parents arm themselves with the latest information. Take the 5-question quiz below by answering true or false and find out how much you really know.
1.Marijuana is a “gateway” drug, leading to the use of harder drugs. True or False?
False: The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other harder substances, so marijuana use does not necessarily lead to the use of harder drugs. Some research, however, suggests that marijuana use is likely to precede the use of other legal and illegal drugs and the development of addiction to other substances.
2.Marijuana is not addictive. True or False?
False: While all studies indicate that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, nicotine or other drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, it is an addictive substance. Youth who use marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop an addiction.
3.Marijuana use impairs brain functioning. True or False?
Depends: Most recent studies indicate that in adults, the impact on long-term brain functioning is negligible, but this depends on how early, how often, and over how long a period of time it was used, all of which can lead to a decrease in cognitive ability.
In adolescents, a good deal of research suggests that marijuana use can have a negative effect on the developing brain.
4.Smoking marijuana does not harm the lungs. True or False?
False: The American Lung Association reports that smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung. Research shows that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis, and may have other negative impacts as well, especially with heavy use. There is no evidence, however, that smoking marijuana leads to lung cancer.
5.More young people will use marijuana in states where it has been legalized for recreational use. True or False?
False (sort of): On the one hand, research shows that teen attitudes towards marijuana use have softened. Fewer teens think that there is anything wrong with using marijuana, and, across the country, marijuana use among teens has increased to its highest level in 30 years.
On the other hand, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics indicates that in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized, marijuana use among youth has actually gone down by 8%. This may be because in these states, it’s more difficult for teenagers to obtain marijuana because drug dealers are being replaced by licensed dispensaries that require proof of age.
How did you do on the quiz? While more and more states move to legalize marijuana, it is critically important that parents have straight conversations with their children about the risks of teen marijuana use. It’s important not to sensationalize or overstate the negative effects of marijuana, but teens should know that the earlier and heavier the use, the more likely they are to experience negative consequences.