One risk factor that can predict substance abuse in adolescents is a tolerant attitude about substance use. Basically, if the adults within an adolescent’s world think it’s ok (or even good) to use illicit substances, then that attitude does indicate that the adolescent will use illicit substances. Right now, a movement is underway to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. However, I am concerned because, while there is evidence that Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the chemical in marijuana that produces the experienced high) is safe for adult use, there is also evidence that it may not be safe for adolescent use.
Several studies (I’ve included one here: cannabisPsychosis ) have shown that, for adolescents, use of marijuana could lead to psychotic episodes as long as ten years after the last use of marijuana. The study I’ve included controlled for any previous psychotic episodes and found, “that incident cannabis use significantly increased the risk of incident psychotic experiences” in adolescents.
While I do not judge anyone for their behaviors, I do wish to caution folks that, while laws are becoming more permissive towards marijuana, we should still seek responsibility for our youth. The danger that I see is that in moving towards more permissive laws we will also be moving towards a more permissive attitude towards substances, in general. Though alcohol and nicotine are both legal and quite harmful, the legality is only for adults. We shouldn’t allow the legality to become confused with healthy choices. There is no way I can be convinced that alcohol and nicotine can be anything but detrimental for our adolescents. In the same way, I don’t think marijuana is a safe and healthy recreational choice for our adolescents.
There is always evidence for both sides of any argument. It’s just that I don’t think we should only think of ourselves when we present substance legalization legislation. We should take all evidence into account and understand how our attitudes impact our kids. THC may contribute to later psychotic episodes in adolescents who use the substance; we should be aware of all risks such that we don’t hand the keys to addiction to our kids.