National debates on the legalization of marijuana have helped normalize the behavior for many teens.
Data from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration indicate that in all states that have legalized recreational marijuana, rates of first use among adolescents are higher than the national average for the
That’s why it’s important that your child inherently understands that you don’t approve of their use of marijuana, in the same way that you don’t want them to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use other substances.
The new marijuana landscape doesn’t change the fact that all mind-altering substances — including marijuana — are harmful for the still-developing teen brain.
Marijuana and the teen brain
The parts of the adolescent brain which develop first are those that control physical coordination, emotion and motivation. However, the part of the brain which controls reasoning and impulses — known as the prefrontal cortex — does not fully mature until the mid-20s.
It’s as if, while the other parts of the teen brain are shouting, the prefrontal cortex is not quite ready to play referee. This can have noticeable effects on teen behavior, such as:
• difficulty holding back or controlling emotions
• a preference for high-excitement and low-effort activities
• poor planning and judgment (rarely thinking of negative consequences)
• more risky, impulsive behaviors, including experimenting with drugs and alcohol
So, during the adolescent years, your teen is especially susceptible to the negative effects of any and all substance use, including marijuana. Even occasional use of pot can cause teens to engage in risky behavior, be taken advantage of, find themselves in vulnerable situations and make bad choices while under the influence — like combining weed and alcohol, driving while high or engaging in unsafe sex.