Marijuana Talking Points

Regardless of your thoughts on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, what you and your teen need to know is that teens and adults are impacted differently because the brain is still under development until the mid-twenties.

The basics:

  • By federal standards, marijuana is still an illegal drug, classified as a Schedule 1 Substance. To meet this classification criterion, a drug must have 1.) No currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. 2.) A lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. 3.) A high potential for abuse. This determination is based on a rigorous review of the existing research by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). The most recent review took place over the summer of 2016.
  • Effective January 1, 2020, the legal age for marijuana use in Illinois became 21 just as it is for alcohol.
  • The Academy of Pediatrics was not going to authorize any youth use because of where the brain is developmentally. There is concern over both short and long-term damage. They have relented only in extreme cases.

Here are some facts:

  • THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive component, has increased dramatically in the last 20 years and the high levels are associated with paranoia and psychosis.
  • In 1995, the average amount of TH in marijuana was 3.75%.
  • Today, the average amount of THC in marijuana/cannabis is over 20%.
  • Today, marijuana comes in concentrated forms with THC levels ranging from 70%-95%.
  • The higher potency accelerates addiction. Easier to get high = more vulnerability to addiction.

Additional consequences for teens:

  • Marijuana/Cannabis use can disturb sleep cycles. Many find it hard to sleep and this leads to multiple problems.
  • Marijuana/Cannabis has longer-lasting cognitive effects in a teen, potentially even irreversible. Effects that might last a few hours in an adult could last a week in an adolescent.
  • Research suggests marijuana/cannabis use during the teen years creates structural changes in two regions of the brain: the Amygdala (Fundamental in processing emotions, memories, and fear responses) and the Nucleus Accumbens (Core of motivation, pleasure, and pain, and every decision you make).
  • When regular use is initiated in the teen years, it can lead to an 8 point drop in IQ.
  • Marijuana/Cannabis use is strongly correlated with Schizophrenia and other mental health issues including anxiety and depression.
  • A teen’s brain is primed for learning. Unfortunately, addiction is learned. This is why 90% of addictions have roots in the teen years. It can take a teen only months to develop a full-blown addiction whereas it could take an adult years.