2014-10-04 / Viewpoints

Pot Affects Teens

Dear editor:

Even the staunchest advocates of marijuana legalization favor age restrictions.

Study after study shows that cannabis use can have a marked effect on young people’s mental health, as well as their overall well-being. It has been linked to depression, anxiety and schizophrenia among teenagers and young adults.

Youth who use marijuana at least once weekly have double the risk of depression later in life, and those ages 12 to 17 who smoke marijuana weekly are more likely than non-users to have suicidal thoughts.

Impacts are even worse for chronic marijuana users. Brain development continues into the early 20s. We now know that illicit drug use produces psychological -- if not physical -- changes, affecting a young person’s developing brain.

Unfortunately, the average age for teens trying marijuana is 14.

High levels of THC (the active component in marijuana) can influence the brain centers into feeling or thinking in a distorted way, which can present outwardly as depression or paranoia, as well as difficulties in controlling emotion and reason.

The “gateway” argument actually has some merit. Many who smoke weed will never progress to more dangerous drugs. But the vast majority of people who become addicted to harder drugs started on alcohol and/or marijuana.

Misinformation is everywhere. Both pot advocates and opponents tend to be selective in the information they rely upon and share.

An excellent place to turn for credible information is the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; telephone 1-800-662-4357.

Steven Lee


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