Effects of Cannabis on Teenagers’ Mental Health
Many parents are oblivious of just how dangerous cannabis can be for teenagers. In this article, Terry Hammond, a former EUFAMI Board member, provides compelling evidence that exposes these dangers.
To understand the effects of cannabis on teenagers it’s important to understand how this complex plant affects teenagers’ brains. Cannabis is made up of many chemicals. But the two key ones that affect the brain’s functioning are THC and CBD. THC is the chemical in cannabis that brings about the high and the feeling of euphoria. This is what gives users the buzz. CBD is the chemical that can provide therapeutic value, for example, pain relief. Criminal gangs have genetically modified cannabis, so it has higher levels of THC, so users get a greater mind-altering experience. These high THC levels can be highly dangerous, particularly for young people whose brains are still developing.
Studies have shown that over 90% of the drugs being sold on the streets today contain these higher levels of THC, which can be between 10% and 70%. In the 1960s, the THC levels were between 3 and 5%. Scientists have now proven beyond any reasonable doubt that high levels of THC currently contained in cannabis are causing many young people to develop long term mental health problems. Many are developing schizophrenia. One of the most compelling studies has been done in Europe, ’Cannabis Use and the Risk of Psychosis and Affective disorders’. It has shown that over 30% of all new cases of psychosis in parts of London have been directly linked to cannabis. In Amsterdam, it’s a staging 50%.
In a report by Public Health England: ‘Young People’s Substance Misuse Treatment Statistics 2018/19’, 14,485 young people in the UK needed treatment for substance misuse; 88% of these young people in treatment reported that cannabis was the main problem, followed by 44% who said it was alcohol. This contradicts those young people who say that cannabis is safer than alcohol; it most definitely is not! A study in Canada of 3,826 young students (12 to 13) in 31 schools showed that cannabis use had a more lasting effect on a young person’s brain than alcohol. It was found that cannabis use can lead to a decline in learning ability, decision-making, and overall academic achievement, which can last into adulthood. The poor academic outcome has been linked to numerous studies linking cannabis use with a decline in the neurocognitive development of young teenagers’ brains. The outcome of this decline is that the brain does not develop to its full potential, hence the link with poorer academic achievement.
The science is now very clear: if young teenagers use cannabis monthly, weekly, or daily, they substantially increase the risk of damaging their brains; the more regularly they take it and the younger they are, the risk increases. By using cannabis, teenagers are playing Russian Roulette with their mental health. If cannabis caused premature baldness, then I suspect young people would run a mile from it. Because the impact on their health is less obvious, kids blindly use cannabis, oblivious to the very real dangers that could be awaiting them. If they cannot see the dangers, then we adults have a duty to protect young people from this dreadful modern scourge.
This article is an extract from Terry Hammond’s book ‘Gone To Pot – Cannabis: What Every Parent Needs To Know’. If you would like to know more about the impact cannabis is having on young teenagers and what you can do to protect your children, visit: www.terryhammond.org.uk