Teen marijuana use has been on the rise for several reasons. Weed is now readily available and inexpensive. Plus, more than 20 states have legalized recreational marijuana for people age 21 and older. That also means teenagers and even preteens have more exposure and access to pot. One result is an increase in marijuana abuse and misuse among teens.
In fact, researchers found that cases of teen marijuana abuse increased 245% in 20 years. A recent study from Oregon Health & Science University reveals that while alcohol abuse has steadily declined among teens, cannabis abuse has soared. From January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2020, more than 338,000 cases of intentional marijuana misuse and abuse exposures occurred in children. More than four-fifths of those cases occurred in teenagers (ages 13 to 18).
The popularity and availability of edible marijuana products plays a key role. The study’s lead author, Dr. Adrienne Hughes, says, “These [marijuana] edible and vaping products are often marketed in ways that are attractive to young people, and they are considered more discrete and convenient.” The study’s findings, she adds, “highlight an ongoing concern about the impact of rapidly evolving cannabis legalization on this vulnerable population.”
Teen Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain
A spike in teen marijuana use and abuse has multiple consequences. Driving while high or impaired can lead to traffic accidents and fatalities. The potential for addiction exists as well. In fact, about one-third of marijuana users end up with “marijuana use disorder.”
Teen marijuana use can be the result of peer pressure, or desiring to fit in. Yet ironically it also can lead to problems with one’s social life and relationships. Plus, marijuana use negatively affects academic performance, which can ruin long-term educational plans. Weed also reduces coordination and hampers problem-solving and learning.