A new study from National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has found that young people (under 17) who use cannabis regularly are 60 per cent less likely to finish school. It was also found that daily cannabis use among teenagers was strongly linked with symptoms of depression and suicide attempts (daily users of cannabis where seven times more likely to attempt suicide than non-users).
At the moment there appears to be an easing of restrictions in regards to cannabis use around the world. There are some arguments for why this should be happening, as it now seems obvious that the war on drugs has been a failure. The danger though is that this easing of restrictions on cannabis may be misunderstood to mean that the drug is safe to use. It may be true that cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol (this is an ongoing debate), but it is certainly not true that cannabis is a safe substance.
The regular use of cannabis appears to be most dangerous for young people. This is because it can cause harm to the developing brain. It can lead to problems with learning, concentration, judgment, and memory – this would help to explain why those who use this drug regularly perform less well at school. Some of the other dangers associated with cannabis use include:
- it can trigger symptoms of depression or worsen symptoms of depression
- there is a link between using this drug and suicide attempts
- it can trigger and exacerbate mental health problems
- it can cause damage to the heart – it increases heart rate by as much as 50 beats per minute so the heart has to work harder
- smoking cannabis can lead to lung problems
- it is common for people to use tobacco when smoking cannabis, which means those using the drug will face similar dangers as smoking cigarettes
- cannabis is often credited as being a gateway drug to other substances – one reason for this is that individuals who buy the drug will often be getting involved with drug dealers that have other substances to sell.
Young people who use cannabis can be risking their health and their future. Failure to do well at school can mean that these individuals will have far fewer opportunities later on in life. It is therefore vital that parents and teachers are able to spot the signs of cannabis abuse. These can include:
- bloodshot or glazed over eyes
- dilated pupils
- performing less well at school
- loss of interest in hobbies and other activities
- smell of smoke on clothing
- pieces of cardboard in pockets – used to make roaches (filters) when smoking cannabis
- collecting train tickets – these can be used as roaches
- evidence of loose tobacco – left over from making joints
- money going missing from the home
- appears ill in the mornings
- mood swings
- saying strange things or laughing inappropriately – this can be a sign that the young person is high
- appears to be hallucinating – some types of cannabis can be so strong that it triggers hallucinations
- acting in a secretive manner – wanting to spend increasing amounts of time alone
- symptoms of depression
- a suicide attempt.
If your child is abusing cannabis, he or she will be in danger. If you get too emotional or threaten them, it might just mean that they become better at hiding the problem in future. It is important that you find out why your child is using this drug and explain the dangers of continued usage to them – this has to be done in a calm manner.
If your child has already fallen into the trap of regular drug use, the best solution may be for him or her to enter a rehab programme. The purpose of this type of treatment is not just to get your child to stop the cannabis use, but to allow them to develop new ways of dealing with life so there is no further need to turn to drugs. Even if your son or daughter is resistant to the idea of going to this type of programme, it can still benefit them to receive the treatment.