Teen Marijuana Use: Psychosis, Hospital Visits, and More

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A teen uses marijuana

Pot, weed, grass, dope: no matter what you call it, marijuana has become a household term in the United States. So, it’s not surprising that marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the country. However, the drug’s rapid increase in potency raises concerns about the long-term effects of marijuana usage, especially in teens and young adults.

Marijuana Usage Normalized

Over the years, the perception of the risks of cannabis use among teenagers has decreased. Research shows that many adolescents do not see marijuana as a threat—in part due to the legalization of the drug in different states across the US and the normalization of its use in popular culture.

According to a 2019 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the daily use of marijuana increased in students from eighth through twelfth grade, even after these rates stayed stagnant for many years. Jana Wu, Director of Cultural Integration, says there is a big “group approach” surrounding marijuana as many adolescents take the drug to fit in with their peers without understanding the harmful side effects that come along with it.

Trends in Marijuana Usage

The amount of THC found in cannabis products has changed as well. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in weed that is responsible for the “high” many people crave. In 1995, the average concentration of THC in cannabis samples seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration was about 4 percent. By 2017, it was 17 percent. Cannabis manufacturers are extracting THC to make oils; edibles; wax; sugar-size crystals; and glass-like products called shatter that advertise high THC levels in some cases exceeding 95 percent.

Unlike tobacco and alcohol, there is no regulation on the concentration of THC in products. As the potency of marijuana rises, researchers are noticing an uptick in individuals who are suffering from intense vomiting, paranoia, and psychotic episodes as a result of their cannabis use. New York, in particular, has seen a rise in hospital visits from school-aged kids who have gotten sick after ingesting or inhaling synthetic marijuana, beginning after NY legalized the sale of recreational marijuana in March 2021.

The Impact of Marijuana on Teen Behavior

During adolescence when many developmental changes are occurring, the consequences of marijuana use can be severe. Using marijuana at a young age can have an impact on an individual’s mental capacity and behavior. Some common effects of teen marijuana use include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Trouble learning
  • Poor decision making

Many of these issues are exposed both in the classroom and outside. Various studies have found that students who use marijuana have a higher likelihood of receiving lower grades compared to students who do not use the drug. Higher risk habits, such as unsafe sexual behaviors, driving under the influence, and criminal behavior have also been linked to teen marijuana usage.

The Impact of Marijuana on Teen Health

In addition to affecting behavior, another concern is the effect that marijuana has on teens’ physical and mental health. Not every side effect is instantaneous—some can appear weeks or even years later, such as schizophrenia and psychosis. Research has suggested that young adults that smoke marijuana every day are five times more likely to develop psychosis than their sober counterparts. Marijuana use can also increase teens’ risk of developing anxiety and depression, particularly if they are predisposed to mental health disorders. The risk of developing other health issues also drastically increases. Among these issues are:

  • Chronic cough
  • Bronchitis
  • Oral cancers
  • Throat cancers

Marijuana and Addiction

Marijuana is a brain-altering addictive substance. For some teens, “casual” marijuana use has the potential to turn into a marijuana use disorder. Nearly 10 percent of cannabis users will become addicted, and adolescents that use marijuana are at a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder later in adulthood.

Wu shares that, “Overall, about 15 percent of people in treatment at Mountainside’s Chappaqua location have a primary diagnosis of cannabis use disorder and those who stop using the drug often become agitated and anxious.” She goes on to say that the withdrawal process is insidious and has many unpleasant side effects including irritability, insomnia, depression, and more.

In a time when the push for marijuana legalization is persistent, many teens are under the impression that marijuana has no consequences and can do no harm. The hard truth? Research shows just the opposite. There is much evidence that adolescent use of marijuana has negative effects on the brain that last through adulthood. From problems at school to ones that follow them home, young adults are particularly prone to issues that arise from persistent marijuana use at an early age.

It is important to educate teens about the dangers of drug use from a young age and encourage them to make the right decisions for themselves and their futures. If you notice your child or friend showing signs of marijuana use, don’t hesitate to get help. The longer substance abuse goes untreated, the more dangerous it can become.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.