Troubled Teen Options


Fact: Research shows that nearly 50 percent of teenagers try marijuana before they graduate from high school.

In 2000, over 3 million youths aged 12 to 17 used marijuana at least once during the past year.

White youths were more likely to use marijuana than Hispanic, black, or Asian youths.

Youths with an average grade of D or below were more than 4 times as likely to have used marijuana in the past year as youths who reported an average grade of A.

57 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 agreed that obtaining marijuana would be easy.

Nearly 25 percent of youths agreed that a lot of drug selling occurs in their neighborhoods.


One in six youth had been approached by someone selling drugs in the month before the survey.

More than 25 percent of youths who had been approached by someone selling drugs in the month before the survey had used marijuana in the past month.

In the 1970s, the baby boom generation was coming of age, and its drug of choice was marijuana. By 1979, more than 60 percent of 12th-graders had tried marijuana at least once in their lives. From this peak, the percentage of 12th-graders who had ever used marijuana decreased for more than a decade, dropping to a low of 33 percent in 1992. However, in 1993, first-time marijuana use by 12th-graders was on the upswing, reaching 50 percent by 1997. Although the percentage of 12th-graders who have experience with marijuana has remained roughly level since then, there is still reason to be concerned. In 1999, more than 2 million Americans used marijuana for the first time. Two-thirds of them were between the ages of 12 and 17. Furthermore, the marijuana that is available today can be 5 times more potent than the marijuana of the 1970s.

Drug Treatment Options

The use of marijuana can produce adverse physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral changes, and - contrary to popular belief - it can be addictive. Marijuana smoke, like cigarette smoke, can harm the lungs. The use of marijuana can impair short-term memory , verbal skills , and judgment and distort perception. It also may weaken the immune system and possibly increase a user's likelihood of developing cancer. Finally, the increasing use of marijuana by very young teens may have a profoundly negative effect upon their development.

We hope that this research report will help make readers aware of our current knowledge of marijuana abuse and its harmful effects.

Fact: There are stronger forms of
     marijuana available to adolescents today than in the 1960s.  Stronger
     marijuana means stronger effects.

Glen R. Hanson, Ph.D., D.D.S.
Acting Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Children who become more heavily involved with marijuana can become dependent, and that is their prime reason for using the drug. Others mention psychological coping as a reason for their use - to deal with anxiety, anger, depression, boredom, and so forth. But marijuana use is not an effective method for coping with life's problems, and staying high can be a way of simply not dealing with the problems and challenges of growing up.

Researchers have found that children and teens (both male and female) who are physically and sexually abused are at greater risk than other young people of using marijuana and other drugs and of beginning drug use at an early age.

Q: What happens after a person smokes marijuana?
A: Within a few minutes of inhaling marijuana smoke, the user will likely feel, along with intoxication, a dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, some loss of coordination and poor sense of balance, and slower reaction time. Blood vessels in the eye expand, so the user's eyes look red. For some people, marijuana raises blood pressure slightly and can double the normal heart rate. This effect can be greater when other drugs are mixed with marijuana; but users do not always know when that happens. As the immediate effects fade, usually after 2 to 3 hours, the user may become sleepy.

Q: How long does marijuana stay in the user's body?
A: THC in marijuana is readily absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces (metabolites) of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods several days after a smoking session. However, in heavy, chronic users, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana.

Q: Can a user have a bad reaction?
A: Yes. Some users, especially someone new to the drug or in a strange setting, may suffer acute anxiety and have paranoid thoughts. This is more likely to happen with high doses of THC. These scary feelings will fade as the drug's effects wear off. In rare cases, a user who has taken a very high dose of the drug can have severe psychotic symptoms and need emergency medical treatment. Other kinds of bad reactions can occur when marijuana is mixed with other drugs, such as PCP or cocaine.

Q: How is marijuana harmful?
A: Marijuana can be harmful in a number of ways, through both immediate effects and damage to health over time. Marijuana hinders the user's short-term memory (memory for recent events), and he or she may have trouble handling complex tasks. With the use of more potent varieties of marijuana, even simple tasks can be difficult.

Because of the drug's effects on perceptions and reaction time, users could be involved in auto crashes. Drug users also may become involved in risky sexual behavior. There is a strong link between drug use and unsafe sex and the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Under the influence of marijuana, students may find it hard to study and learn. Young athletes could find their performance is off; timing, movements, and coordination are all affected by THC.

Q: How does marijuana affect driving?
A: Marijuana affects many skills required for safe driving: alertness, the ability to concentrate, coordination, and reaction time. These effects can last up to 24 hours after smoking marijuana. Marijuana use can make it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road.

There are data showing that marijuana can play a role in crashes. When users combine marijuana with alcohol, as they often do, the hazards of driving can be more severe than with either drug alone. A study of patients in a shock-trauma unit who had been in traffic accidents revealed that 15 percent of those who had been driving a car or motorcycle had been smoking marijuana, and another 17 percent had both THC and alcohol in their blood.

In one study conducted in Memphis, TN, researchers found that, of 150 reckless drivers who were tested for drugs at the arrest scene, 33 percent tested positive for marijuana, and 12 percent tested positive for both marijuana and cocaine. Data also show that while smoking marijuana, people show the same lack of coordination on standard "drunk driver" tests as do people who have had too much to drink.

Q: Do marijuana users lose their motivation?
A: Some frequent, long-term marijuana users show signs of a lack of motivation (amotivational syndrome). Their problems include not caring about what happens in their lives, no desire to work regularly, fatigue, and a lack of concern about how they look. As a result of these symptoms, some users tend to perform poorly in school or at work. Scientists are still studying these problems.

Q: Can a person become addicted to marijuana?
A: Yes. While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, when a user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that person is said to be dependent on the drug or addicted to it. In 1995, 165,000 people entering drug treatment programs reported marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, showing they needed help to stop using. Some heavy users of marijuana show signs of dependence because when they do not use the drug, they develop withdrawal symptoms. Some subjects in an experiment on marijuana withdrawal had symptoms, such as restlessness, loss of appetite, trouble with sleeping, weight loss, and shaky hands.

According to one study, marijuana use by teenagers who have prior serious antisocial problems can quickly lead to dependence on the drug. That study also found that, for troubled teenagers using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, progression from their first use of marijuana to regular use was about as rapid as their progression to regular tobacco use, and more rapid than the progression to regular use of alcohol.

Q: What is "tolerance" for marijuana?
A: "Tolerance" means that the user needs increasingly larger doses of the drug to get the same desired results that he or she previously got from smaller amounts. Some frequent, heavy users of marijuana may develop tolerance for it.

Q: Are there treatments to help marijuana users?
A: Up until a few years ago, it was hard to find treatment programs specifically for marijuana users. Treatments for marijuana dependence were much the same as therapies for other drug abuse problems. These include detoxification, behavioral therapies, and regular attendance at meetings of support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous.

Recently, researchers have been testing different ways to attract marijuana users to treatment and help them abstain from drug use. There are currently no medications for treating marijuana dependence. Treatment programs focus on counseling and group support systems. From these studies, drug treatment professionals are learning what characteristics of users are predictors of success in treatment and which approaches to treatment can be most helpful.

Further progress in treatment to help marijuana users includes a number of programs set up to help adolescents in particular. Some of these programs are in university research centers, where most of the young clients report marijuana as their drug of choice. Others are in independent adolescent treatment facilities. Family physicians are also a good source for information and help in dealing with adolescents' marijuana problems.

Drug Abuse Teen
Marijuana, Other Drug Use Among Teens Continues to Rise
By Neil Swan, NIDA NOTES Contributing Writer
The percentage of America's 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who use marijuana continued to increase last year, according to NIDA's 1994 Monitoring the Future study. Students' use of several other categories of drugs also escalated, while anti-drug attitudes among teenagers deteriorated, the survey found. For the third year in a row, the survey reported a statistically significant increase in annual marijuana use by 8th-grade students. Thirteen percent of 8th graders said they had tried marijuana at least once in the past year-up from 9.2 percent in 1993, 7.2 percent in 1992, and 6.2 percent in 1991.

It was the second year in a row that annual marijuana use among 10th- and 12th-grade students increased. Tenth graders' annual marijuana use jumped from 19.2 percent in 1993 to 25.2 percent. According to the annual survey, 30.7 percent of high school seniors said they had tried marijuana at least once in the past year, compared with 26 percent of seniors in 1993 and 21.9 percent of seniors in 1992.

Trends in Adolescents' Annual Use of Marijuana
Annual marijuana use increased for the second year in a row among 10th and 12th graders and for the third year in a row among 8th graders.

Chart showing marijuana smoking trends among 8th graders, 10th graders, and Seniors.  All Decrease from 1985 until 1992, then increase

Options for parents may also include placement in specialty schools for defiant teens, boot camps, residential treatment centers, and military type schools. Call toll free 800 503 0338 and we will help you find your way through the myriad of options available to you.