Cannabis Use Among Young People

cannabisIf you are a teenager or young adult, for that matter, you are going to come to your own decisions regarding the harm associated with drug and alcohol use. Older adults and experts in the field of medicine will try to convince you that substance use can be a slippery slope, and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, not everyone that uses mind-altering substances develops a problem, so you might convince yourself that the adventure outweighs the risk.

There is no scientific way to predict who will be touched by the disease of addiction, but there are some factors common among those who develop problems. Unfortunately, people do not become aware of such similarities until it’s too late. With that in mind, abstinence is the only sure way one can prevent the series of misfortunes that befall people who meet the criteria for addiction.

When someone offers you drugs or alcohol at parties, how you respond can shape the course of one’s life. We know that many young people go on to lead productive lives after experimenting with substances, but that’s not everyone’s story. Ask yourself this: ‘Will using mind-altering substances help me achieve my goals in life?’ It’s a rhetorical question, we know, but one that will hopefully make people who have already started down a path of substance use to rethink what they are risking.

Tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are usually the first types of substances that young people use. In every state, use of the three is prohibited by law; however, it’s no secret that getting one’s hands on them is not a difficult task.

Marijuana Use is No Longer Flat

Each year, the University of Michigan conducts a survey to gauge young people’s perceptions of drug use. Questions also include whether or not teens have tried or use a particular substance. The findings this year were both negative and positive. For many years, teen marijuana use rates have been stagnant, being relatively consistent with previous years despite the changing public opinion about the drug. This year, researchers witnessed an uptick possibly linked to “vaping.”

Vaping is a term associated with electronic cigarettes, but the devices can be used to vaporize cannabis oils, as well. In the past 365-days, one in 10 high school seniors reported having had vaped cannabis oil, The Chicago Tribune reports. Previous studies show that while tobacco use is down among high-schoolers, e-cigarette use has been steadily on the rise. This year’s survey is the first time researchers have looked at the teenage use of such devices for marijuana. Vaping is the primary way young people get high today, although the practice likely played a role in the 1 percent rise in overall marijuana use.

On a more positive side, in the 43 years since the survey’s inception, cocaine, heroin and other illicit drug use among teens are the lowest it has ever been, according to the article. More research is needed to address cannabis vaping among young people, Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA), points out that 1 in 17 high school seniors report using marijuana every day.

Cannabis Use Disorder Treatment

If you are young adult who began using marijuana in high school, there is a chance that you meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder. Those of you whose use impacts your daily life in negative ways should consider seeking help. Marijuana might be benign compared to other narcotics, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Addiction is addiction; any substance can wreak havoc on one’s life. Please contact Synergy Group Services for help; addiction recovery is possible.

Cannabis Use Linked to Anxiety

cannabis useAddiction is a mental health condition that often occurs with another disorder, such as depression or anxiety. When two conditions coincide, a patient is said to have a co-occurring disorder. It’s crucial that the addiction and co-occurring disorder (otherwise known as a dual diagnosis) receive treatment at the same time; concurrent therapy improves a patient’s ability to achieve long-term recovery.

Although treatable, there is much still unknown about mental health conditions; why they occur in specific people at certain times in their life. Substance use disorder is a disease that develops over time, whereas anxiety or depression can seem like it sprung out of nowhere. There are times when one’s addiction predates their co-occurring disorder and other instances when the reverse is the case.

Untreated anxiety can lead individuals down a path of desperate measures to find relief. Common symptoms of anxiety include excessive worry, fear, feeling of impending doom, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, poor concentration, or trembling. A desire to calm such symptoms is only natural, and mind-altering substances sometimes help accomplish that task, at first. Interestingly, people who meet the criteria for anxiety disorder often use marijuana. The link persists despite the fact that cannabis use has been known to cause paranoia. Nevertheless, a large contingent of people with anxiety disorders uses cannabis regularly.

Problematic Marijuana Use and Childhood Anxiety

A team of researchers from Duke Health studied the link between childhood anxiety and problematic cannabis use, according to a press release. Using data from 1,229 participants in the Great Smoky Mountains Study, the research team tracked participants’ patterns of cannabis use from the college years (ages 19-21) into adulthood (ages 26-30). The findings appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Of the participants, 7 percent were persistent users, limited users (13 percent), and delayed users (4 percent). Persistent users could have started using “pot” at the age of 9, using the drug significantly into their early 30’s, the article reports. The researchers found that 27 percent of persistent users had anxiety disorders when they were children.

“This suggests that a focus on mental health and well-being could go a long way to prevent the most problematic use,” said lead author Sherika Hill, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty associate at the Duke University School of Medicine.

Aiming Prevention Efforts

Substance use prevention efforts have long focused on adolescents, but the research indicates that adults deserve attention, too. It’s unclear why somebody with an anxiety disorder would begin using marijuana problematically for the first time in adulthood, but a small group of people does. As cannabis laws ease, adults without any history of marijuana use may turn to the drug. Substance use is not a treatment for mental illness; marijuana can be habit-forming and lead to addiction—often requiring help. Hill said:

“A lot of current interventions and policies in the U.S. are aimed at early adolescent users. We have to start thinking about how we are going to address problematic use that may arise in a growing population of older users.”

If you suffer from anxiety and are using marijuana problematically, please contact Synergy Group Services.

Synthetic Marijuana vs Traditional Cannabis

marijuanaEmergency departments across the country have seen a steady rise in synthetic drug related cases, commonly involving what are known as synthetic cannabis. While the name may cause people to think of marijuana, the effects of synthetic cannabinoids are both unpredictable and dangerous. The side effects associated with the use of such compounds, sold under the name “K2” or “Spice” are frightening to say the least. That being said, it begs the question, why would people use substances with side effects which cannot be anticipated?

Synthetic marijuana, unlike traditional cannabis in most states, teeters on the line of legality. Meaning, it is easy to buy and use synthetic drugs because chemists are constantly altering the formula to stay ahead of government bans. What’s more, the chemicals found in synthetic cannabis can’t be detected by most standard drug tests, which is appealing to young people and those working in professions that drug test randomly. When you add that together with how inexpensive synthetic drugs are, it is easy to see why some people would be drawn to those forms of drugs.


Synthetic marijuana, and its effect on the human body, is far from understood by scientists. Ironically, researchers developed synthetic cannabinoids (SCB) in order to better understand the effect of the main psychoactive ingredient (THC) found in traditional cannabis on receptors in the brain, Cell Press reports. Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) point out that while SCBs activate the same brain receptors as THC, SCBs are not only different from marijuana—they are chemically distinct from one another. In a Review published in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, the researchers write of synthetic marijuana:

“SCBs are falsely marketed as safe marijuana substitutes. Instead, SCBs are a highly structural diverse group of compounds, easily synthesized, which produce very dangerous adverse effects occurring by, as of yet, unknown mechanisms. Therefore, available evidence indicates that K2/Spice products are clearly not safe marijuana alternatives.”

Paul L. Prather, a cellular and molecular pharmacologist at UAMS and his colleagues point out that SCBs have been associated with twenty deaths, according to the report. Clinical studies have identified both acute and long-term adverse effects of SCB, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Kidney Injury
  • Cardiotoxicity
  • Strokes
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis

Synthetic Marijuana Addiction

Those who use synthetic cannabis regularly are at risk of developing a tolerance and dependence on the drugs. Those who attempt to quit can experience withdrawal. If you or a loved one has been abusing synthetic drugs, please contact Synergy Group Services. Synthetic cannabinoids are extremely dangerous, given the fact that you have no idea what kind of side effects to expect. The next time could land you in the hospital, or worse.

Marijuana Use Prevention Efforts

marijuanaMarijuana is a popular drug in the United States, indicative by the fact that it is the most used illicit narcotic in this country. As of late, discussions about drugs have been geared towards prescription opioids and heroin—in light of the ongoing epidemic. Yet, it is worth keeping in mind that while marijuana is a far cry from opioids, it is still a drug that can have negative effects on one’s health and lead to addiction. The demographic of greatest concern is young people, especially adolescents.

In the science community, it is widely held that teenage cannabis use can have a serious impact on the brain. This is due to the fact that the brain of adolescents is still developing. While preventing teens from using cannabis is a top concern, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that in the last year, marijuana was used by:

  • Roughly 6.5 Percent of Eighth-Graders
  • 14.8 percent of 10th-Graders
  • 21.3 Percent of 12th-Graders

NIDA’s findings indicate that cannabis prevention measures need to start much earlier. But when? A team of researchers from the University of Florida (UF) took it upon themselves to pinpoint when teens are most like to begin using cannabis, MNT reports. Their findings could increase the success of preventative measures in the future. The research was published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

The findings of the study, led by Dr. Xinguang Chen, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at UF, showed that adolescents are at risk of initiating cannabis use by the age of 11, according to the article. The risk of using cannabis peaks at the age of 16. The researchers determined those ages by looking at data from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The survey involved 26,659 adolescents and young adults—ages 12 to 21.

“Our findings demonstrate the need to start drug education much earlier, in the fourth or fifth grade,” said Dr. Xinguang Chen. “This gives us an opportunity to make a preemptive strike before they actually start using marijuana.”

At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in treating addiction, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and give you the tools necessary for sustaining long term abstinence from all mind altering substances.

Alcohol: The True Gateway Drug

alcoholMarijuana is commonly referred to as the ‘gateway drug,’ that is the drug that people try first before moving on to experiment with harder drugs. It has been an argument that many who are against marijuana legalization have used in defense of their stance. While it may be true that most people who progress to drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, have used marijuana at one time or another, it does not mean that it should be branded the gateway drug. In fact, new research points to another substance, one that is far more pervasive and legal than marijuana, The Washington Post reports. If you were thinking alcohol, then you would be correct.

Researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Florida analyzed Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey data from 2,800 U.S. 12th graders, according to the article. The findings indicated that “the vast majority of respondents reported using alcohol prior to either tobacco or marijuana initiation.” The researchers point out that teenagers were the least likely to smoke marijuana before using alcohol or cigarettes.

Alcohol is legal throughout the United States, and while the substance is generally considered to be somehow different than other mind altering substances, the fact of the matter is that alcohol is an addictive drug – one that can produce equal amounts of hardship for the individuals who imbibe. The researchers concluded:

“Alcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use.”

Determining which addictive substance that teens use first is important, but the researchers point out that when people start using may be even more important. They found adolescents who drank for the first time in the 6th or 7th grade would then use on average nearly two illegal drugs later, the article reports. The researchers write:

“Overall, early onset substance initiation, whether that is alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, exerts a powerful influence over future health risk behaviors.”

The findings were published in the Journal of School Health.

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