How Recreational Marijuana Legalization is Affecting American Teens

Legalization of recreational marijuana seems to have emerged as a top priority for various American states. Even as marijuana — a schedule I drug under the federal law — acts as an effective painkiller, the drug can do more harm than good when used recreationally. Its abuse may cause lung damage, brain impairment, etc. when smoked directly. When adolescents use marijuana heavily, they are at a higher risk of developing various physical and mental complications.

While the Trump Administration has of late shown some leniency for medical marijuana, the question arises as to whether there has been any significant change in perception and use of marijuana with regard to teens. A December 2016 study, published online by JAMA Pediatrics, dealt with the reaction of U.S. teens after marijuana was legalized for recreational use by adults in some states. The study focused on the potential effect of legalizing marijuana in Washington and Colorado, which were the first two states to legalize recreational use of marijuana for adults in 2012.

Need for prevention programs for teens in states legalizing pot

Among eighth and 10th graders in Washington, the new legislation led to an increase in marijuana use, while it reduced the drug’s perceived harmfulness, found the researchers. However, no change was noticed in the students of the two grades and 12th graders in Colorado, post the legalization. It is estimated that marijuana use may escalate further, especially among children and teenagers, since the legal status of the drug will decrease the perceived risk of harm regarding marijuana among them.

For the purpose of the study, the researchers used data from nearly 254,000 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades who took part in a national survey of students. Subsequently, the pre-legalization changes (2010–2012) in the status of the drug were compared to changes during post-legalization (2013–2015), and were contrasted with trends in other states that did not legalize recreational marijuana.

It was observed that the perceived harmfulness declined 14.2 percent and 16.1 percent among eighth and 10th graders, respectively, while marijuana use increased 2 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively in Washington. However, those states that did not legalize recreational marijuana use witnessed a decline in its perceived harmfulness to 4.9 percent and 7.2 percent among eighth and 10th graders, respectively, followed by a reduction in marijuana use to 1.3 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

“A cautious interpretation of the findings suggests investment in evidence-based adolescent substance use prevention programs in any additional states that may legalize recreational marijuana use,” said the researchers.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), regular use of marijuana can lead to development of marijuana use disorder, which eventually progresses to addiction. Marijuana dependency occurs when the “brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters,” as per the NIDA.

Need of the hour

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has neither recognized nor approved the therapeutic value of marijuana. Therefore, it is still classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act owing to its high potential for abuse. However, the rapid growth in marijuana use and misuse across the country can be attributed to the ease of availability, social popularity and perceived harmlessness of the drug across all age groups. That calls for the right rehab for teens.

If you or your loved one is addicted to marijuana or any other drug, contact the Recover Mental Health to know about the best teenage drug rehab centers in your vicinity. Recover Mental Health is a resource center dedicated to providing information on everything related to mental health and substance abuse. With over 21,000 listings in our directory, we provide quick and easy access to treatment centers across the U.S. and Canada. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866–593–2339 to talk to our certified representative, who can guide you to one of the best teenage rehab centers.