Marijuana & Mental Health: The Blunt Truth - Part 2
Being a teen or young adult can be very challenging. The transition from middle school to high school, and for some college, happens so fast while the world won’t seem to slow down enough to give anyone time to adjust. It was in these transition years that many of my closest friends turned to marijuana. Unable to cope with some of the stresses and anxieties of change many of them used it to cope. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I did some research and it really helped me feel confident in my choice.
This info might be especially helpful if you ever feel negative intrusive feelings and struggle to control them. Or maybe you have feelings of persistent sadness or stress or lack of motivation to do…anything! Some of my friends really struggled with anger they had trouble controlling and feeling irritated at…everything! I’ve felt like my mind sometimes gets locked into race mode, but I still couldn’t focus enough to get anything done. One thing I learned is that these are all common feelings that many people my age experience and it caused them to turn to marijuana for relief.
So if you are a teen, college student, or young adult, please know many people experience these feelings. And if you’re thinking of using marijuana as a coping mechanism for any of these feelings, you might be surprised like I was, to learn what science discovered about marijuana and how it effects emotions and mental health - especially in young people.
In part 1 of this blog, we covered your brain’s chemical structure, marijuana dependency, and some of the effects that THC has on a young brain. But here are other mental health factors I found useful.
1. Avoid the Drama. Don't Use Marijuana
One of the first things I learned shocked me because it went against everything I’d been hearing. Marijuana, in any form, has been proven to heighten the anxious, depressing, out of control, or unpleasant feelings you are already experiencing (National Institute on Drug Abuse). I thought it was supposed to relieve those feelings. But, no.
The second thing I learned is that even if you’ve never experienced symptoms of a mental health disorder, using marijuana, especially with a high amount of THC (the chemical that gets you high), can introduce you to conditions you never experienced before. In fact, marijuana and mental health accompany each other much more than you think. While many use the substance to avoid emotional and mental health challenges, it does the opposite. Studies are showing that marijuana is a huge contributor to the development of mental health problems. The word development is important here because it means the issues weren’t previously occurring. That means if you start to use marijuana it is highly likely that mental health issues or disorders will start to exist for you, like anxiety or depression. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says teens who start to use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren’t there). The result is marijuana not only heightens symptoms of someone already has mental health problem, but can cause symptoms to occur in those who never had them in the first place (Psychiatric Times). It’s a scary truth that you should definitely take into consideration before choosing to use any form of marijuana.
2. Let Me Introduce You to the Teen Brain!
There is one particular area of the brain that is responsible for many things important to feelings of well-being. It’s called the prefrontal cortex. Unfortunately, it is the last part of the brain to finish developing, which is around age 25. The prefrontal cortex helps with making decisions – especially good ones, controlling impulses, and regulating intense emotions. It is also the area of the brain where mental health problems and disorders stem from. Now, you can see where this may become a problem.
It is easy to think that the only way to relieve overwhelming strong emotions, especially those that linger, is to resort to a mood-altering drug. Maybe your friends tell you it helped them and encourage you to try it, or you have an older sibling use it. Perhaps you see ads pop up on your phone, or drive by billboards – all listing mental and physical health issues it will help. It gives the impression marijuana can relieve most problems.
But we all know not everyone’s brain works the same. It’s incredibly interesting, and important, to understand how different the teenage brain is compared to a fully developed adult brain. I was shocked to learn what science had to say about that.
When a teen regularly uses marijuana (more than twice a week), the underdeveloped areas of the prefrontal cortex become “dead”, meaning those areas can no longer grow and develop like they should. Using marijuana as a teenager stops the area of the brain that is still developing from any further development. Serious business. Casual use of marijuana as an edible, vape, concentrate, or any other form causes the area of the brain that is most necessary to our mental health to remain underdeveloped. And teens who are dependent on marijuana, meaning they use it more than two times a week, have much higher rates of various mental health disorders than teens who don’t use the drug (The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions). These areas of the brain that are no longer allowing growth are a huge contributor to those heightened mental health struggles in teen marijuana users.
3. Marijuana 1, Future 0
Every time you cope with your overwhelming feelings by using marijuana, your brain begins to depend on the drug whenever you feel nervous, upset, or worried. You might think that marijuana is helping to soothe your anxiety or stress related to mental health, but it’s really forming an addiction.
Did you know that 90% of drug addictions, including marijuana dependency, have roots to the teenage years? That means nine out ten people who became addicted began using in their teen years. If you ask me, I’ll pass on the 90% chance of addiction.
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is especially addictive to a teen brain that is still developing. If you notice this dependency occurring, this is a huge indication that you may be addicted to the substance. So, before you decide to just take a hit, or just eat a brownie, take into consideration the adverse effects that marijuana will have on your teenage brain and your future!
Now that you have more facts about marijuana and your mental health, I encourage you to take this information into consideration if you ever feel like you’re at a crossroads. Avoiding marijuana is the best thing that you can do for your mind and its health! Turn instead to ways to handle stress without drugs. They really work!
If you haven’t already, take a look at part 1 of this blog for other methods on how to look after your mental health. Be sure to share this blog with a friend, loved one, or someone you know and keep an eye out for future articles about marijuana and other substances from Omni Youth Programs.
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