There are often many debates about the addictive nature of cannabis. Now that it has become legal in many states, advocates often praise its benefits; which tie back to pain and anxiety management. But other studies have shown it to be a gateway drug, particularly for young people, and a substance that can lead to unhealthy dependencies. Now there appears to be more research backing up that claim, per a new report published by JAMA Pediatrics.
The news site Bloomberg published these latest findings, which call out cannabis’ addiction risks for middle and high schoolers. According to data gathered by JAMA, teen dependency rates for marijuana are about the same as for prescription opioids; with a particularly high number for kids between the ages of 12 to 17.
Almost 11 percent of teens under the age of 18 saw a heavy cannabis addiction rate after one year of use. Those who have been experimenting with it for up to three years have a 20 percent chance of becoming dependent, per the study. This is particularly concerning because youths in that age set still have developing brains and could be putting themselves at serious risk.
“One in 10 teens having a marijuana addiction — that’s huge,” study co-author Nora Volkow told Bloomberg. “This certainly puts their development at risk and it also gives them a higher chance of becoming addicted to other drugs later.”
It is interesting to note that teens aged 18 and up saw a much smaller addiction risk if they first began using at that age. Their rate was about 6 percent, about half that of the 12 to 17 year old set. The big call out, according to Volkow, is to steer these younger teens away from the drug. All of the stats point to much more serious damage the earlier these habits start forming.
One other component that was flagged for the study had to do with the potency of cannabis products in 2021. The authors believed that this is a contributing factor to the spike in teenage dependencies. According to JAMA’s research, marijuana with higher levels of THC does appear to be more addictive.
And it also worth calling out that the states which have de-criminalized cannabis have set an age limit on it to 21 and over. But even though it may not be legal for these teens to be using marijuana, they are most certainly doing it and that is something that deserves to be addressed.
One final point emphasized by Volkow harkened back to involvement, both from parents and authority figures. “These findings underscore how important it is for doctors, teachers and parents to talk to teenagers about recreational drug use,” she concluded. “Unfortunately, that is something that isn’t always emphasized at these younger ages.”