The use of drugs and mind-alternating substances has been a part of society for decades. The ‘high’ that people attain from the use of such substances is very attractive and exciting however, the effects of this use are minimized. Particularly for youth, a group of individuals who are seeking independence and experimentation, drug use represents the balance between taking risks and taking responsibility for one’s actions. However, the developmental processes of adolescents are known to not encompass the maturity required to fully think through such decisions. As such, the use of a ‘smaller-scale’ drug like marijuana is even more minimized. The purpose of this paper is to discuss what the risks of using marijuana are for youths, why they are the most affected, how this problem has progressed over the last three decades, and what preventative measures and treatment options are in place. It will also discuss what schools, parents, and government agencies could be doing to help improve the issue, and the impact that this issue is having on society.
The Risks for Marijuana Use
It is a common belief among today’s youth that marijuana is a low risk drug and that using it is harmless to their health (4). This widespread misconception is a large factor in why marijuana use is so regularly accepted by today’s youth. The percentage of young people using marijuana in Canada is one of the highest in the world, with Ontario sitting among the leaders in that percentage (CAMH). According to a survey done by the Canadian Public Health Association, “Marijuana use represents 90% of the illegal drug use among students” (CPHA), 2012 CP). With so many Canadian youth blindly abusing a substance with no real understanding of what the risks are, it is accurate to say that Canada has a big problem to address. Using marijuana has many negative mental, physical, and emotional side effects for adolescents and young adults. Some of the mental side effects include but are not limited to: problems with memory, difficulty learning and retaining information, and impairments with judgment and perception (6). A survey done by the National on Drug Abuse showed that individuals, who start smoking marijuana in their early teens, loss approximately eight IQ point between the ages of 13 and 38. This survey also established evidence that people who have smoked marijuana before the age of 18 are likely to present with compromised mental abilities even after they quit using the substance (3). For a young person whose mind and body are still developing these side effects can be extremely detrimental to his or her cognitive progression, and the ability to adjust socially. There are also many medical side effects that can last anywhere from a few hours after being ingested, too many years down the road. Some of the short term effects include euphoria, increased hunger or “munchies”, paranoia, increased heart rate, confusion, and dulled senses. Various long...