It is tempting to try to minimise the dangers of cannabis use among young people by saying that it is just harmless experimentation. While it may be true that many teenagers who experiment with this drug never develop any serious problems, it is also obvious that many do go on to become addicted. An article in the Mail Online this week highlighted the reality that cannabis is far from being a safe drug – plenty of evidence now demonstrates that young people using this drug will be at much higher risk of heavy drug use later on.
The article in the Mail Online focused on the work of Professor Didier Jutras-Aswad and his team. They looked at 120 studies that dealt with the effects of cannabis on the brains of teenagers. Analysis of this data demonstrated that those young people who tried the drug were at much higher risk of addiction, heavy drug use, and developing psychosis. The studies also show that the younger teenagers are when they are exposed to cannabis the worse the outcome will be.
The most commonly cited reason why teenagers choose to use cannabis is peer pressure. They see their friends engaged in this behaviour and feel left out unless they do the same – their peers are likely to actively encourage them to use the drug, maybe even suffering ridicule if they refuse. It can be very difficult for teenagers to say no when there is this much pressure on them.
It is also common for teenagers to have their own personal reasons for trying cannabis. They may be struggling with the stresses of adolescence or they come from an abusive home. In these situations, cannabis can seem like a means to escape the problems. There will also be young people who are experiencing the early stages of mental illness. They may have no idea what is happening to them, but they turn to cannabis because it gives them comfort. This is usually referred to as self-medication.
It is also true that many teenagers will try cannabis just because they wish to experiment with these drugs. The use of this drug is often portrayed in the media as exciting, so it is understandable that kids will be curious to find out what all the fuss is about. They try these drugs without fully appreciating how it could have a serious impact on their future.
Parents and teachers need to educate teenagers to the real dangers of drug addiction. There is too much bad information out there that says cannabis is harmless. The reality is that this can be a dangerous drug for teenagers to take because of its potential to lead to serious addiction later on. It is also vital that parents are able to spot the warning signs of cannabis use so they can deal with the problem right away.