Marijuana, also referred to as Bhang or Ganja, is one of the most commonly abused drugs. It is a mixture of dry shredded seeds, stems, flowers, and leaves of Cannabis Sativa, and is consumed through various channels. The most common channel is smoking whereby the drug is inhaled in the form of hand-rolled cigars known as joints. Others use pipes to smoke marijuana. Marijuana is also consumed in a powder form in which case the leaves, stems, and seeds are first grounded into fine powder and then added in various amounts to foods and beverages such as tea. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (2016), marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the United States, particularly by the youth. Curbing Marijuana use among American teens is challenging, owing to its highly addictive nature and the many hurdles that face its treatment processes in the United States.
Prevalence of Marijuana Use among Teens in the United States
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stresses that the use of marijuana in its various possible forms is illegal in many countries (2012). Despite its illegal status, trends suggest that its usage is on the rise globally, particularly among people in their teen years. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) gives stunning figures; 44% of American teens engage in marijuana abuse at least once during their high school period (2011). Although much effort has been put by governments and health agencies to fight the use of marijuana in the world, the trend shows that its use is on the rise. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
A national epidemiologic survey drug abuse conducted by NIDA in the years 2001 and 2002 revealed that Marijuana dependence among United States teens (13-18) stood at 4 (NIDA, 2011). The study also showed that this dependence had risen by 2% since a similar study conducted ten years earlier had found a dependency rate of 2% (NIDA, 2011). Similarly, Marijuana usage among the dependent teens had risen in the intervening year. This increase in can be attributed to the increasing potency of the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main active ingredient in marijuana (NIDA, 2011). Marijuana use disorders among those who are reliant on it have increased substantially in the intervening year, a case which is firmly attributed to the potential of THC to induce addiction within a short period
This mounting potency and other factors associated with addiction combine to influence intensifying marijuana use in teens. Modified production techniques for marijuana are escalating the concentration of THC in Marijuana (National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, 2013). It thus heightens the chances of users getting addicted to it which in the long run leads to increased desire for the drug. Greater use, which is influenced by increased tolerance, results to a number of marijuana use disorders. Looking at the statistics, America should be concerned about the prevalence of marijuana use among American teens.
Effects of Marijuana Use
Marijuana use has numerous effects that span across several areas. The most common are cognitive and psychological effects. These effects tend to be more prone in teens and new young users who are less resilient to the consequences of drug use.
Teen Brain Development and Cognitive Function
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the teen brain is actively developing and does not stop until they reach 20 years (2014). Substance abuse during this critical developmental period has many adverse impacts on growth and development. It affects the teen’s ability to grow not only mentally but also in other areas that are tied to brain development. APA (2014) further stresses that the THC contained in marijuana affects how the brain analyzes sensory information; specifically, it distorts how signals are relayed and analyzed in the hippocampus, that part of the brain that controls learning, emotions, motivation, and memory. Prolonged exposure of this part to THC leads to the deterioration of learned behaviors; consequently, teens cannot actively respond to stimuli, including learning in class.
Teen’s Emotional and Social Development
Impaired brain function is directly linked to marred social and emotional development. Though the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and emotions is relatively developed during teenage years, frontal lobes, the part of the brain responsible for judgment still requires time to grow and develop. As Jacobus and Tapert (2014) note, the use of marijuana, to a great extent, impairs the development of this region of the brain. The frontal lobe is also responsible for controlling impulse and sexual behaviors. When this part is affected, teens are rendered vulnerable to emotional and psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, which consequently affects their academic performance and social interactions.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Increased Risk of Heart and Lung Disorders
The first significant effect of marijuana use among teens is the increased risk of heart and lung diseases. Pletcher et al., in exploring the effects of marijuana use on pulmonary function, conducted a study that involved 5000 men and women from major cities in an attempt to establish whether marijuana and cigarette smoke have the same effect (2012). In the study, the researchers tested the pulmonary function of the participants based on their level of exposure. The study found out that there is a weak linear relationship between marijuana use and decreased pulmonary function.
However, the American Lung Association (n.d.) suggests that prolonged marijuana use has the potential of causing similar effects as marijuana. Smoke, be it from burning wood, plastic cigarettes or marijuana, can instigate irreversible damage to the lungs. Smoke contains several traits of cancer causing agents that when inhaled, endangers the lungs (American Lung Association, n.d.). Howden and Naughton (2011) reiterate that the risk of lung damage due to marijuana usage cannot be ruled out, provided that it is inhaled. THC also has some effect on the ability of lung tissue to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Marijuana use thus puts people at more risk of suffering from respiratory disorders.
Teen’s Problematic Behaviors
Research shows that individuals who use marijuana from an early age are at a significant risk of developing problematic behaviors. Most of these problematic behaviors are linked to questionable peer affiliations. A study conducted in New Zealand targeting 14-15 year-olds found that those teens who severely abused marijuana had challenges later in life (Fergusson & Boden, 2008). They were more likely to engage in immature and risky sexual activity, drop out from college, leave home, participate in violence, and fall victims to accidents. Furthermore, they were susceptible to other crimes related to drug use (McCaffrey, Liccardo Pacula, Han, & Ellickson, 2009).[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Poor Academic Performance
Marijuana usage also affects teen academic performance negatively. It is not clear how marijuana affects academic performance, but experts suggest that it disturbs memory motivation (McCaffrey et al., 2009). Also, marijuana use is associated with relationships in high-risk peers who influence behaviors such as skipping classes, absenteeism, and running away from school (McCaffrey et al., 2009). Teens that use marijuana also have been found to be less motivated to learn and to lack the general desire to learn. These teens spend much of their time with their problematic peers. Drugs occupy their minds to the extent that education, which should otherwise be their primary business at school, comes in second.
Intervention Strategies – Saving Teens
From the above discussion, it is apparent that the consumption of marijuana has numerous adversarial effects on a teen’s health. Prolonged use leads to addiction because addiction generally changes the functioning of the brain and body. Early intervention is the best option; it prevents progression to addiction which is harder to curb. In this case, the available interventions options can be classified into school-based interventions, community-based intervention programs, and competence enhancement interventions
School-based interventions are a collection of all attempts to stop or reduce drug use that takes place in school (Griffin & Botvin, 2010). They are effective since they can reach a large number of students at the same time. School-based interventions are based on the understanding that the use of marijuana and other drugs is inconsistent with education since substance abuse lowers the academic achievement of learners. Some of these interventions use dramatic fear arousing techniques that are meant to enlighten students on the long-term effects of using marijuana and drugs. Lectures and seminars intended to discourage drug use also fall into the category of school-based interventions (Griffin & Botvin, 2010).
Teachers and educators have a role to play in promoting the success of school-based interventions. Proper assessment of the students is one way of improving the success of such programs. Assessments will enable teachers to identify all students who smoke marijuana and make appropriate plans for their inclusion into intervention programs; besides, school-based interventions would not be effective in combating drug use in schools if they failed to incorporate the worst affected students. For instance, organizing a drama play in class with the aim of creating awareness on the effects of drug use would be a waste of time if the most affected culprits cannot attend.
Competence enhancement programs are based on the understanding that social learning processes are crucial in behavior formation. Social learning processes are thus part and parcel of the process through which drug abuse is adopted and internalized by teens. Exposure to drug use in schools, recreational centers, and other places increases the chances of teens becoming drug users. As Mayberry, Espelage, and Koenig (2009) further confirm, teens with poor social and personal skills are more likely to be influenced by drug use through social learning processes. Competence enhancement programs can be used to counter the effects of social learning processes, by encouraging teens who are victims of drug consumption to change their ways. Competence enhancement programs aim at developing self-control, adaptive skills, social skills, and assertive skills that are paramount to resisting entry and re-entry into drug use.
Community-based intervention programs are those that include family and parenting components. They may include mass media campaigns, public anti-drug abuse initiatives, advocacy, and other types of community activities that focus on reducing and combating drug use. Unlike school-based interventions that target teens while at school, community-based intervention programs target teens while at home and in the community. It is important to note that teens face much pressure to engage in drug abuse while at home and in the community (Glantz & Hartel, 1999). Parents, religious institutions, and community leaders play a vital role in promoting community-based interventions. Well-coordinated community-based programs have been seen to be effective in fighting drug and substance abuse.
Trends on Marijuana use trend in the U.S. warrants concerns from all stakeholders. Relevant authorities, particularly those involved in tackling drug use, should be put to task to explain this phenomenon whereby drug use is becoming increasingly prevalent despite their increased funding. Bearing in mind that marijuana is the most common drug abused by teens and in light of its adverse effects, there is a need for prompt action to stop the trend. Marijuana has been found to affect brain, social, emotional, and physical development. This way, it has adverse effects on education and general lives of teens outside the school. School and community-based interventions are some of the best ways to combat this vice.
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