Teenagers believe legalization of marijuana encourages experimentation and may lead to further drug use

The legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use is happening in states across the nation. These changes may be affecting the way teenagers think about marijuana and other harmful substances. A new study commissioned by Rosecrance shows that the legalization of marijuana may encourage teenagers to experiment with the drug, along with other substances.

The online study, conducted by Wakefield Research among 400 U.S. teenagers ages 13-17, found that 76 percent of teens believe that with the legalization of marijuana, teenagers may be more likely to experiment with the drug. The study also found that 73 percent of teenagers believe having easier access to marijuana may accelerate teens in trying other drugs, and 61 percent said that teenagers who use marijuana are more likely to try heroin, a potentially fatal drug.

“There is a common misconception that marijuana is not an addictive substance,” said Thomas Wright, MD, the Chief Medical Officer at Rosecrance, one of the country’s leading teen substance abuse treatment centers. “Marijuana is addictive, and teenagers become addicted to substances more quickly than adults and therefore are the most vulnerable. There is no safe level of substance use among teenagers. Their brains are still developing, and substances can cause permanent damage.”

Teenagers need to be reminded of the danger that comes with even occasional substance use. In fact, new research published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that casual use of marijuana can cause structural damage to the brain. Additionally, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that marijuana use may lead to an increased risk for heart-related complications.

“Through decades of experience working with teens, we understand that teenagers don’t want to become addicted to substances; they want to live a healthy life,” said Dr. Wright. “Teenagers want their parents to actively parent and give them the guidance and support they need, and that includes how to navigate what is happening around substances today. Parents should ask what their teens are doing, address the pressures they are facing, act immediately when they suspect their teen is in trouble, and advocate for help if their teen needs it.”

In this confusing environment, it is more important than ever that parents to talk to their teenage children about the realities of substance use. Despite what is happening today, parents need to keep addictive substances out of the hands of children, whether or not adults have legal access to them.