Is marijuana addictive? With heavy use, marijuana use disorders can form as one builds a tolerance for THC, consumes more, and as a result grows dependent on the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms. This is increasingly a public health concern as the THC concentration in marijuana has consistently risen over the past few decades, making the drug more potent.
In a majority of the states, marijuana is either decriminalized, medicalized, and or legalized for recreational use. In these states adults over 21 can purchase, grow, and use marijuana, turning it into an accessible substance like nicotine and alcohol. Though difficult to measure the relationship between recreational marijuana laws and increased adolescent use, reasons may include advertisements that increase adolescent exposure to marijuana.
Some studies give evidence that high concentrations of THC impact the developing brain of adolescents more than adults, and may decrease attention, memory, and learning functions of the brain. These effects may be long term depending on the age when marijuana use began and the THC potency. Alarmingly, a 2019 survey, Monitoring the Future, about the usage of drugs like marijuana and nicotine by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that more and more adolescents are vaping marijuana.
How can communities decrease adolescent marijuana use? Prevention through education in school health programs is the main measure suggested to raise awareness about the potential harmfulness of marijuana. Furthermore, advertisements and social media campaigns similar to anti-vaping ones can also reduce misconceptions about marijuana. Increasing regulations of where marijuana dispensaries are allowed to be established may also be effective at discouraging adolescent use. For example, extending school zone violations of drug distribution, areas with additional penalties, from 300 ft to 1000 ft. Another possibility is imposing larger fines for underage marijuana use because currently the only penalties are a maximum of a $100 fine and participation in a drug awareness program.
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