Whether you are excited, outraged or just plain confused about this development, marijuana is now legal for recreational use in the state of California. Which leaves many of us wondering, what does this mean for our kids? How are we going to help them navigate yet another obstacle, another temptation?
Well, the fact is, marijuana has been around a long time, and many teens use it regularly. The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens (NIDA) states that 45% of 12th graders have tried marijuana in their lifetime, and almost 25% of them have used it within the past month. That means there is about a 50% chance that your child will try marijuana at some point while living under your roof.
While experimentation during adolescence is normal, what does concern me is how many adolescents view this legalization as an indication that marijuana isn’t that bad; how could it be, if adults can now use it freely?
I have to get on my pedestal for a minute and remind everyone that marijuana is not benign. At least not for the teenage brain, which isn’t fully formed until age 25. Marijuana acts on specific centers within the brain, including the cerebellum, cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus, all very crucial structures that are extremely vulnerable during adolescence when teens’ brains are still developing.
So how can marijuana affect your teen? Here are a few examples:
-It makes it harder to focus and retain information. A recent study found that teens who smoked marijuana regularly had an estimated 8 point drop in their IQ in adulthood.
-It affects judgment, including decision-making and risk-taking, which are already hard enough for teens, whose frontal lobes aren’t fully formed yet.
-It can affect their lungs, causing both a chronic cough and also making one more susceptible to infection
-It is associated with depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.
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(This post was originally published on San Francisco Mom’s Blog on Thursday, March 24, 2017)