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Is Marijuana Addictive?

Can My Teen Become Addicted to Marijuana?

On November 6, 2012, Colorado made history both nationally and across the world. Amendment 64, a popular ballot initiative that amended the state’s drug policy for cannabis, passed. And on January 1, 2014, commercial sales of marijuana began across the state.

Since then, the state has seen over $2.28 billion in combined recreational and medical marijuana sales dating from January 2014 through October 2018. There’s no doubt that marijuana has positively impacted Colorado’s economy, but at what personal cost?

As a parent, you don’t want to see your child get mixed up in drug use. And even though the state spent $12.8 million over the last 4 years on youth education programs for marijuana use, you probably still question the safety of marijuana.

Is marijuana actually addictive if your teen uses it? That’s the question we aim to address in this article.

Marijuana Use and Addiction: What the Research Suggests

Marijuana is the most used illicit drug in the country. As you read this, you may even be able to think back to a time when you were in high school or college where you, yourself, had either tried marijuana or smoked it pretty regularly with your friends.

While it may be easy to say to yourself, “I smoked it and didn’t become addicted, so my child probably won’t either.”, that’s an incorrect mindset to have.

In reality, anyone can become addicted to drugs. And yes, this is even true for marijuana.

It is estimated that 9 percent of all marijuana users become dependent on the drug. What’s more, 17 percent of those addicted to marijuana started using the drug during adolescence.

While it’s possible to be dependent and not addicted to a drug, recent research has shown that addiction to marijuana does, in fact, exist. In 2015 alone, 4 million Americans met specific criteria that indicated a marijuana use disorder.

It’s true that marijuana isn’t as addictive as other illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin. And it certainly hasn’t triggered an epidemic like the opioid crisis has. But marijuana can still be an addictive drug, especially for your teen.

How Marijuana Affects Your Teen

People who use marijuana before the age of 18 are actually four to seven times more likely to develop an addiction to the drug than adults. This means your teen is at a greater risk of a substance abuse disorder, even if all they were doing was innocently trying it out.

Why are teens at a greater risk of becoming addicted to marijuana? A big reason is because your child’s brain is still doing a great deal of development and marijuana use has a major impact on that development.

For example, recent research has found that consistent and heavy marijuana use affects the white matter in an adolescent’s brain. White matter helps enable communicating between neurons. But when marijuana is added to the mix, white matter is unable to do its job, leading to a weaker ability to control impulse behavior.

Even more research has found that marijuana use significantly impacts both the structural development and functionality of a teen’s brain, affecting a teen’s decision-making skills, impulse control, attention and memory and much more. This can then lead to decreased school performance, financial issues, low self-esteem, an increased likelihood of dropping out of school and greater risks of unemployment.

Kokua Recovery, Experts in Treating Childhood Trauma and Addiction

In the wake of more and more states legalizing marijuana, it’s easier to turn a blind eye to its use and and feel grateful that your teen isn’t drinking or using heroin. But the truth is marijuana use is detrimental to your teen’s health and development, and can easily turn into dependence and addiction.

Fortunately, there are addiction treatment centers like Kokua Recovery that specialize in teen marijuana addiction and trauma. It’s possible your teen’s marijuana use is more a biproduct of deeper emotional and mental issues at play, such as PTSD, depression or anxiety. This is why we use dual diagnosis treatment to help your teen recover from both addiction and their co-occurring disorder.

Contact us today to learn more about the programs we offer and how your teen can get started.

Ken Huey

Upon graduating from Purdue with a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Huey worked as a therapist, Clinical Director, and Business Development Director in residential treatment. Dr. Huey was always drawn to the large population of adoptees in residential treatment (he is adopted himself). He ultimately became convinced that this population needed specialty care and in November of 2006, Dr. Huey founded Calo. Calo grew to a 200 plus employee organization with about the same numbers of teen clients served each year. He sold Calo and retired in June of 2015. He came out of retirement in 2017 and founded Kokua Recovery, trauma-informed residential drug and alcohol treatment with sites in Colorado.

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