Many teens feel pressured to try marijuana at some point during high school. It might seem like “everybody’s doing it,” and people might be telling you “it’s not a big deal, just try it.” But the reality is that marijuana is a very big deal.
Marijuana, often referred to as pot, weed, herb, reefer, or Mary Jane, is a mixture of dried and shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. The mixture can be green, brown, or gray, and has a very strong smell. Most people roll loose marijuana into a cigarette joint and smoke it, but some people also put it in food and tea.
When people are high on marijuana, they feel good. It gives them pleasant sensations, and enhances all their senses. Everything feels good, everything tastes better than normal, everything sounds cool. But it only feels good for a very short amount of time, and then the negative effects kick in.
Here are the short term effects… people high on marijuana have:
- Loss of coordination
- Slower reaction time
- Problems responding to sounds/signals
- A hard time remembering things
- Poor judgment
- Poor perception
- Higher heart rates (20-50 beats faster per minute)
- Inability to make decisions
And here are some long term effects:
- People who currently or have previously smoked marijuana have a heart time with complex tasks. Marijuana contains THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which finds brain cells with specific kinds of receptors called cannabinoid receptors, and binds to them. This affects the part of the brain that learns and remembers, and it continues to affect it permanently even when you’re not high anymore. So past users have a hard time pursuing academic, athletic, and other life goals that require you to be 100% focused and alert.
- People who have used report less life satisfaction, poorer education/job achievement, and more anxiety and depression.
- 1/6 people who start using at a young age become dependent on it and experience withdrawals when they try to quit.
- Smoking marijuana is no different than smoking cigarettes, maybe even worse. It affects the lungs and airways, causes breathing problems, and causes people to be more susceptible to chest colds, coughs, and bronchitis. Marijuana smoke is also inhaled more deeply than cigarettes so more smoke enters the lungs for a longer period of time. It also contains the same chemicals as cigarettes… about 400 chemicals.
- Marijuana can act as a gateway drug and lead people to trying other drugs.
- Marijuana is also illegal. Anyone who is caught with it can spend time in jail, and be fined a lot of money, even if you’re under 18.
If your friends are pressuring you to try marijuana, just think about it: is less than an hour of a “good feeling” worth damaging your brain and lungs, being unable to make decisions and function normally, and risking getting arrested?
If you or a friend are want to quit smoking marijuana, talk to a parent, guidance counselor, or other trusted adult to get help. Or, you can call the Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (which offers many other services besides helping people who are suicidal) at 1-800-273-TALK.