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Drug of Abuse: Cannabis Use in Teenagers – Risks and Development

Adolescence has always been the age of self-discovery, pushing boundaries, and defining one’s own personality, dreams, wishes, and desires. Nowadays, this also means illegal drug consumption. One of the main DOA of choice is cannabis.

Among the 500 chemicals contained in the plant, the relevant one is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), responsible for the “high” feeling. When the plant is smoked, THC enters the bloodstream and ends up in the brain, where its effects can last up to 3 hours. With food or beverages, it takes longer for the effects to become apparent, however, in this case, they last longer – up to several hours even. For regular consumers, the amount of THC needed for a “high” increases the more they consume. This can also result in an ER visit, eventually.

Drug of Abuse: Cannabis effects


While marijuana activates the endocannabinoid system and stimulates the release of dopamine, it also leads to memory loss, mood and perception changes, behavioral changes, disrupting learning processed and thinking in general. In addition to that, use of cannabis can almost double the risk of developing schizophrenia – a 40% risk as compared to people who do not use cannabis.

Marijuana can also accelerate the onset of a psychosis by 2.7 years in those users who already have a pre-existing mental condition. One study also found evidence of 6 points IQ decline  in 38 year olds who had started using cannabis in adolescence, but not in users who had become regular users later in life. The decline remained apparent even in those who were no longer regular users at the time of the assessment. However, other correlations may also play a part in these results.

Several studies show that cannabis use in teenagers is also related to social and economic background conditions, namely single-parent families, maternal cigarette and cannabis use during pregnancy, truancy, etc.
Currently, not nearly enough studies have been conducted to fully assess the long-term impact of regular marijuana consumption on teenage brains. More longitudinal studies and more methods of assessment are needed to properly ascertain, control, and help where help is needed.

One easily accessible and affordable detection method in schools and universities is drug testing, by means of drug testing kits. This way, even complicated family situations can be detected and addressed with more consideration and knowledge.


[Article :Meier, MH, Caspi, A, Ambler, A. (2012) Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife]

[Drug Facts: Marijuana]

[Cannabis and a teenager's developing brain: what you need to know]

[Are IQ and educational outcomes in teenagers related to their cannabis use? A prospective cohort study]

[Mental health of teenagers who use cannabis - Results of an Australian survey]

[Elucidating the Impact of Adolescent Marijuana Use]