It’s only natural for your teen to test limits and push boundaries as they grow up — that’s why you do your best to help them find safe, positive ways to establish greater independence.
But sometimes, teens can be tempted to sample freedom in negative or dangerous ways. Experimenting with marijuana is one of those ways, and it’s something plenty of kids try at least once. Unfortunately, it’s an experiment that can also lead to addiction.
As mental health providers who specialize in substance abuse treatment, the team at EXIS Recovery has seen a significant increase in the number of young people who are addicted to marijuana. Here’s how to spot the warning signs of marijuana addiction in your teen at home.
After tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is the most widely used substance among adolescents of all ages. Smoking pot, vaping THC (the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana), and consuming “edibles” baked into food are the three primary ways that teens use marijuana today.
According to Monitoring the Future, an annual survey that covers drug use and attitudes in secondary schools across the United States, teen marijuana use is at its highest level in three decades. Even though cannabis use is on the rise among younger adolescents, habitual (daily) use remains most prevalent among older teens.
In 2019, about 35% of high school seniors reported using marijuana sometime in the previous year, and more than 22% said they used marijuana within the past month (current use). About 6% of seniors said they use the drug every day.
The recent surge in teen marijuana use coincides with two major factors: relatively easy access and lack of perceived danger. With the widespread legalization and increased availability of medical-grade marijuana and recreational marijuana, many teens believe the drug is neither harmful nor habit-forming.
Unfortunately, marijuana can be both damaging and addictive. Even short-term marijuana use can drastically impair your teen’s memory, judgement, concentration, and coordination, making it harder to learn in school, excel in team sports, evaluate risks, and drive a car safely.
Kids who use marijuana on a regular basis are more likely to develop a cannabis use disorder — sometimes in the form of a full-blown addiction — as time goes on. Long-term marijuana use is also associated with decreased motivation and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
About one in six people who start using marijuana as adolescents, and up to half of people who use marijuana daily, eventually become addicted to it. Addiction means that a person can’t stop using marijuana even though it interferes with many aspects of their life.
Given that marijuana can have a range of different effects depending on how it’s used, it’s not surprising that the outward signs of addiction can vary widely among individuals.
Even so, most young people who abuse marijuana demonstrate a combination of effects, including:
Cannabis addiction can change adolescent behavior in a myriad of ways. Although many teens become extremely relaxed, mellow, or even “spaced out” when they use marijuana regularly, it can also give rise to agitation, irritation, disorganization, and decreased inhibition.
You may notice that your teen’s grades are dropping or that they’re no longer interested in the activities they used to enjoy. They may avoid eye contact, disappear into their bedroom for long stretches of time, or become more secretive with their phone.
The physical effects of marijuana are probably the most telltale signs of cannabis abuse. When someone is high on marijuana, their eyes may be red and glassy or completely bloodshot.
Adolescents who use marijuana may also appear “intoxicated” shortly after they get high. They may exhibit impaired coordination, delayed reaction, and/or an irrepressible urge to sleep.
Extreme hunger, also known as “the munchies,” is another common side effect of being high. Teens who use marijuana often seem insatiable, even if they aren’t very active.
Teens who abuse marijuana often have trouble remembering things, keeping track of time, and staying focused. Besides interfering with their ability to learn, these mental effects can make a teen seem disinterested, disengaged, or irresponsible.
Some adolescents who use cannabis also experience diminished emotional well-being, often in the form of depression or anxiety.
If you suspect your teen is addicted to marijuana, the compassionate team at EXIS Recovery can help. Call 424-244-3513 to learn more about the outpatient programs available at our West Los Angeles office, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment today.