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Marijuana Use and the Teen Brain: Lasting, Dangerous Effects

The prevalence of marijuana use amongst today’s youth is troubling. Most people see marijuana as a relatively harmless drug, with talks of legalization growing more widespread by the year. However harmless the public perception of  cannabis is, its negative effects on the teenage brain are notable and deeply concerning.

What are the Lasting Effects of Marijuana Use?

Regular use of marijuana during an individual’s teenage years has been shown to lead to:

  • Depression and anxiety: Multiple studies have shown that prolonged marijuana use in youth can lead to depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, many young people turn to marijuana to cope with their depression/anxiety which can then create a cycle of drug use that negatively impacts productivity and future success.
  • A failure to launch: Frequent marijuana use can impact motivation within teens. It can cause failure to hit important developmental milestones such as moving out of their parents’ homes, pursuing an education or career, and forming meaningful relationships with others.
  • Slower cognition: Frequent marijuana use in teens does major damage to the part of the brain related to cause and effect thinking known as the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex doesn’t typically become fully developed before the age of 25. Prior to that age, prolonged use of marijuana can severely damage an individual’s ability to distinguish between actions and their effects.

Preventing Teen Marijuana Use

It’s important to intervene in teen marijuana use as early as possible.  Parents should be on the lookout for signs that their teen is engaging in marijuana use. These signs may include:

  • Slipping grades
  • Skipping school
  • Withdrawing from family
  • Increasing usage of numbing substances
  • Excessive video game use
  • Withdrawing from family life
  • Changes in friendship groups

If you are worried that your child may be struggling with marijuana abuse, Kokua Recovery may be able to help. Learn more about our program by calling 877-302-5022.

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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