Budding Issues: The Dangers of Early Cannabis Use

by Anonymous | Thursday, Apr 11, 2024

Marijuana use in high school is rising. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, teenage usage of marijuana is at its highest level of the past 30 years (Marijuana and Teens. 2023). High schoolers are using marijuana more than tobacco. I went to a private catholic high school in Broward, Florida and the prevalence of marijuana use was sky high. With the emergence of vaping marijuana, it became easier and cooler to smoke weed. Kids at school didn’t seem to believe that smoking marijuana could be dangerous. Peer pressure among students became more rampant as not smoking made you uncool. I remember my time in high school and feeling the pressure of my friends saying that I would be fine and I was boring if I didn’t smoke. None of us realized that we could be hurting ourselves for the sake of looking cool. We truly thought through misinformation that since we were vaping it was safer than smoking, which isn’t the case. It can be even more dangerous than smoking weed because of the little regulations the industry has. Highschoolers can’t obtain marijuana legally so they resort to buying it from shady stores/sellers. The new accessibility of marijuana begs the question of how easy it is for high schoolers to obtain marijuana and the safety of adolescents using it. 

What is cannabis?  

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug created from the dried leaves of the cannabis sativa or indica plant. When smoked or eaten, it can produce a mixture of hallucinogenic, depressant, or stimulant effects. Some people feel pleasure and euphoria while others experience anxiety and panic. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) affects the areas of the brain that control pleasure, memory, concentration and thinking, coordination, and time perception (How does marijuana produce its effects? 2021). THC can attach to cannabinoid receptors in the brain which activates them. 

Since THC is able to alter the functions of the hippocampus, it is able to disrupt a person’s ability to learn. As we age, we lose neurons in the hippocampus which reduces our ability to learn. Studies have shown that chronic THC exposure may quicken this process (How does marijuana produce its effects? 2021). By altering function in the basal ganglia and cerebellum it affects your reaction time. This is why it’s dangerous to drive while under the influence of marijuana. These changes to the brain alter a student's ability to perform well in class. At small doses, it targets the brain’s reward system which allows for the release of dopamine. At large doses, it can cause acute psychosis which includes hallucinations and delusions.

Today’s marijuana is grown differently than in the past, containing three times more tetrahydrocannabinol which is the ingredient that makes you experience a high. With new stronger strains, the prevalence of cannabis use disorder has increased. Cannabis use disorder comes from an increased usage of cannabis leading to symptoms of tolerance, withdrawal, and experiencing social or occupational impairment. Tolerance occurs after repeated usage; you need more of a substance to reach the same original high. Withdrawal are symptoms that occur when you come down from the high. Current literature suggests that beyond the neurocognitive memory and attention deficits that persist beyond discontinued smoking, marijuana can cause possible structural brain alterations. The earlier use of marijuana and more frequent use have been associated with poorer outcomes (Jacobus & Tapert, 2014). 

We won’t be able to stop teenagers from smoking but we can do our best to keep them safe by informing them about the risks and medical benefits that come with smoking marijuana. CBD stands for cannabidiol which is the non-psychoactive portion of marijuana. Medical marijuana (CBD) can be used for pain management, PTSD and anxiety, and even tremors related to Parkinson’s disease (Grinspoon, 2020). However, patients should be referred to their doctors when making decisions to take a new medication. During my time in high school, I, along with my friends, weren't aware of the true risks associated with marijuana use at a young age. We saw people smoking on TV and popular celebrities endorsing the use of marijuana. We thought by smoking we were cool but we weren’t participating safely. My hope is that by informing people about the dangers we can reduce peer pressure and keep more teenagers safe. 

Works Cited

Aacap. (n.d.). Marijuana and Teens. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry .



Firth, S. (2022, May 19). Cannabis vaping rising among teens. Medical News.



Grinspoon, P. (2020, April 10). Medical marijuana. Harvard Health.


Jacobus , J., & Tapert, S. (2014). Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain. Current

pharmaceutical design. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23829363/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021, April 13). How does marijuana produce

its effects?. National Institutes of Health.