This is the first post in a three-part series about substance use and misuse in the teen years.
I’m not sure what it is about marijuana (aka weed, pot, grass, cannabis, hash), but it sure is a hot topic! When I started researching teen marijuana use more then two years ago, I was surprised by the debate and the myths that surround this issue. How does one little plant create this much controversy?
To help you sort through the confusion, here are four common myths about marijuana, along with the truths.
Myth #1: What comes from a plant is not harmful.
‘Since it’s natural, it’s not harmful’ is actually one of the greatest myths. This is untrue, and you don’t have to look hard for examples to prove it. Just consider tobacco. It’s a plant. But the evidence shows that drying the tobacco leaves and forming them into cigarettes creates a substance that is harmful and addictive.
Marijuana is the same. It causes lung damage. Just like cigarettes, there is a mix of over 400 toxins and carcinogens in marijuana smoke that damage the lungs. The good news is that marijuana smokers tend to smoke less often than cigarette smokers. The bad news is that when they do smoke, the damage to the lungs can be far greater. Marijuana smoke is usually unfiltered, breathed deeper, and held longer in the lungs before exhaling, all of which increases the risk for lung damage.
Marijuana use also poses a risk to the developing brain of teenagers. Just read my post from last year.
Myth #2: Marijuana is not addictive.
A regular user of marijuana begins to depend on the drug. This dependence can be physical, such as craving the high that the drug gives, and needing more of it to achieve the same high. When a regular user tries to stop using marijuana, some signs of psychological dependence can occur: anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping, sweating and loss of appetite.
Myth #3: It’s safe to drive after using marijuana
The reality is we’re talking about marijuana, a drug that affects the brain. A driver under the influence of marijuana has impaired reaction time and visual ability. Since motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for Ontario youth, make sure your teen knows that driving after using marijuana, or riding with a driver who has been using marijuana, is unacceptable and illegal. Help them make an emergency plan to call you if they are ever in that situation.
Myth #4: Marijuana is legal.
Marijuana is not legalized nor decriminalized. It remains an illegal substance. Possession of marijuana can lead to criminal charges, which can have some very negative outcomes for a teen. Finding a job, being accepted at university or college, and even crossing over the border for an afternoon shopping trip can be difficult for a youth with a criminal record.
Yes, marijuana is a hot topic. But your teenager needs you to talk about it or else they might believe the myths. Tell them what you think. Start by looking beyond the myths, consider the evidence, and then start the conversation with your teen.
For more information about marijuana, visit www.whataboutweed.org.
Share your experience:
For more information about substance use and parenting teens, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
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- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Michelle Schwarz is a Public Health Nurse and Chair of the Halton Cannabis Awareness Strategy Group, a group comprised of professionals from 9 agencies in Halton whose purpose is to increase awareness, dispel myths and reduce the harms associated with youth marijuana use.