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You, Your Teen and Marijuana

During their teen years youth:

  • want to do things on their own
  • try to figure out who they are and what they value
  • may take risks and try drugs such as marijuana
  • often don’t know that marijuana use can have harmful long-term effects

As a parent, you play a key role in shaping your teen’s attitude about marijuana.

What are the risks?

Student with her mom
  • Long-term harm to the brain: The part of the brain that helps with memory, thinking, problem solving and decision making is not fully developed until a person is around 25 years of age. Teenagers who use marijuana are at risk for long-term damage to this part of their brain.
  • School problems: Teens who use marijuana have been shown to have poorer school performance than teens that don’t. They are also at a higher risk of dropping out of school.
  • Breathing problems: Smoking marijuana can irritate the lungs and increase the risk for chest infections. Marijuana use may also increase the risk for developing cancer, as it contains many of the same cancer causing chemicals as tobacco smoke.
  • Increased risk of developing psychosis and/or schizophrenia: Marijuana use may increase the risk for psychosis and/or schizophrenia. This risk may increase if marijuana use starts during the teenage years and is used daily or near daily. The risk may be even higher if there is a family history of psychosis and/or schizophrenia.
  • Addiction: Heavy long-term use of marijuana can cause addiction. This means that a person may have a hard time trying to quit using marijuana and could have withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling anxious or a loss of appetite.
  • Motor Vehicle Collision (MVC): Driving after using marijuana is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. Using marijuana makes it harder to pay attention and tell how far away things are.

Here are some tips to help you talk to your teen about marijuana:

  • Talk often with your teen about their thoughts and knowledge about marijuana.
  • Be clear about your position towards marijuana and other drugs. Your rules must be clear, consistent and well enforced so that your teenager understands them.
  • Be well informed about your teen’s everyday life.
  • Let your teen know that two-thirds of youth in Durham Region reported NOT using marijuana in the past year. Young people often misjudge how many of their friends are using marijuana.
  • Spend time together as a family. Find an activity that you and your teen will enjoy such as biking or walking. This is a great opportunity to connect with your teenager.