Many teens experiment with marijuana, and recently there’s been a lot of misinformation among teens about the safety of smoking weed. The truth is, there isn’t a ton of scientific research about marijuana, so there’s not much we can say for certain regarding its potential harm. However, there are 5 major myths about weed that we think parents should be aware of, so they can give their teens the facts about risk.
Myth #1: It’s Not Addictive
A lot of teens think that it’s okay to smoke weed because they can’t get addicted. The truth is, some smokers become physically and psychologically depended on marijuana. The constant use of cannabis can throw off a teenager’s sleeping, eating and mood along with other areas. When they don’t get their habitual dose of THC, teens can lose sleep, their appetite, and their positive attitude.
Additionally, some heavy marijuana smokers undergo very uncomfortable withdrawals when quitting weed. Former users report physical discomfort, increased anxiety, increased depression, night sweats, and insomnia to name a few of the unpleasant symptoms. Teenagers who regularly smoke weed are putting themselves at risk for dependence and discomfort when they choose to stop. This way, the drug starts controlling the teen’s behavior more than the teen controls their drug use.
Myth #2: Weed is Harmless
Another common misconception is that weed isn’t harmful to health, like alcohol or cigarettes. But really, marijuana is still bad for cardiovascular health. When it’s smoked, it can irritate the lungs and increase cancer risk. Even if it’s consumed as an edible, it can lead to blood pressure problems with long term use. No to mention, the risk of physical dependency or risk of causing physical harm due to impaired reaction times.
Myth #3: Vaping is Safer Than Smoking
Teens might think that smoking is harmful, so vaping THC is a healthier alternative. This is not the case because many THC distillate distributers use oil-thinning agents that when vaporized are just as bad if not worse than the chemicals you would find in a cigarette. In addition to carcinogens, heavy metals from the heating coils have been found in the lungs of vapers.
Vaping also lacks the full spectrum high that teens experience when smoking the cannabis flower, yet the TCH concentration is usually much higher. In this way, teens have to inhale more THC from a vape than they would from the herb to have a desired effect, which leads to a skyrocketing tolerance and an increased risk of dependency.
Myth #4: It’s Good for Anxiety
Many marijuana users report that smoking helps them deal with anxiety, and teens might be attracted to using weed for this reason. On the contrary, marijuana is known to cause anxiety, so what come as a brief relief can actually snowball into worse anxiety later on. Plus, teens using weed to medicate would need to keep increasing the dose to compete with tolerance, increasing their chance of undesirable side effects or outcomes, like paranoia. Teens struggling with mental health issues are more likely to use marijuana, so we recommend that parents find alternative solutions for their teens such as counseling or psychotropic medication.
Myth #5: It’s Safe to Drive Under the Influence
Some teens think it’s fine to smoke and drive. We hear teens say all the time that they would drive stoned, but drunk, because smoking doesn’t impair their driving as much. This is myth, as smoking doubles the risk of getting in a car accident. Teens are already much more likely to get in accident than adults as they are new to driving and are easily pressured by their friends when it comes to risky driving. Smoking can make these factors more dangerous due to decreased reaction time.
Teenagers tend to underestimate the risk involved with smoking weed, or just don’t think enough about the potential negative outcomes. It’s easy for a teen to think that smoking is safe when they are interested in trying it. We hope that parents can be aware of these risks so they can have a better conversation with their teens about cannabis use.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.