The dark side of marijuana: How regular use can harm your child’s brain and physical health

Marijuana is now among the most commonly used drugs in the United States, with more than 35 percent of young adults ages 18 to 25 reporting past-year use, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The number of Americans who have tried marijuana at some point in their life has increased to almost 50 percent, with nearly 40 percent of high school students trying weed. Because marijuana use is becoming more widespread, you may think it’s safe. However, research shows otherwise, especially on the developing brain. 

The drug can interfere with neurotransmitters, create abnormal brain shape and volume, and lead to reduced brain function. In fact, one study found that teens who regularly use marijuana lose an average of 5.8 IQ points by the time they reach adulthood. Other research finds that compared with their peers who don’t use, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school. 

 In addition to education problems, long-term marijuana use has been associated with memory and relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success. Approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. When they start before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to 1 in 6.

Marijuana can also have negative effects on physical health. It’s the most common illegal drug involved in car crashes. It is found in the blood of around 14 percent of drivers who die in accidents. In addition, marijuana use can lead to respiratory issues, similar to those caused by tobacco smoke. The toxic mixture of gasses and tiny particles in marijuana smoke can harm the lungs, leading to breathing problems such as a daily cough and an increased risk of lung infections like pneumonia. Regular marijuana smokers may experience many of the same lung issues as tobacco smokers. 

So what are the signs that your child might be experimenting with marijuana? They might smell like weed. They also could have red or bloodshot eyes, mood swings and delayed reaction times, along with anxiousness or laziness. Find out how to get help for your teen here.