NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Real Teens Ask About Marijuana

Sara Bellum
April 23, 2010

In a recent Drug Facts Chat Day, Jiacalone_01 from Cashmere High School in Washington asked: What percentage of 9th graders smoke marijuana?

Most teens are not smoking marijuana. We know this from asking teens themselves. How? Through the annual survey of teen drug use called Monitoring the Future, which surveys 8th, 10th, and 12th graders about their drug use and attitudes. The survey found that about 12% of 8th graders reported marijuana use in 2009 compared to about 27% of 10th graders and 22% of 12th graders. The survey also showed that marijuana use has declined steadily since the mid-1990s until about 2002. Since then, it’s kind of leveled off, so the people here at NIDA are trying to figure out why, and how to get things back to a downward trend.

One reason for the leveling off may be something else the survey found—which is a change in attitudes among teens toward marijuana smoking—that they consider it to be less harmful than they did in years past.

The thing is, marijuana is more than just a mix of dried leaves from the cannabis sativa plant. It actually contains a chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, along with about 400 other chemicals. Although many of these can affect your health, THC is the main psychoactive (i.e., mind altering) ingredient. (In fact, marijuana’s strength or potency is related to the amount of THC it contains, which is something people who use marijuana won’t know since it is an illegal substance.)

THC alters the way your brain functions, which can be bad news for teen brains since they’re still developing. For example, THC can disrupt what goes on in your hippocampus, which can lead to problems with learning and memory—since that’s what this brain area gets involved in. Disrupting its normal functioning can lead to problems studying, learning new things, and recalling recent events. You can read more on marijuana here:

PS—Some people argue that marijuana is not addictive. Wrong! In 2007, the majority of youth (age 17 or younger) entering drug abuse treatment reported marijuana as their primary drug abused. We admit that, we still don’t know everything that marijuana use does to teens. But we do know that adolescents’ brains are still growing and changing—so is it really worth the risk?


i say everything that kcdude54 was gold and if you want to know the real deal read what he said.

I dont know about the marijuana you have, but my marijuana is TESTED and I know how much THC, CBD, CBN, and other chemicals are in my "harmful drug". Do some real research on the issue instead of screaming government propaganda...then again, this is nothing more than propaganda....stay afraid America...only the government can help you.

@THE420TRUTH We are a public health agency focused on supporting the science behind drugs of abuse and their consequences. Our messages about marijuana are aimed primarily at teens, to give them a better shot at fulfilling their potential in life. No one is screaming here but you.

The only reason why the number of teens in drug abuse treatment for marijuana is higher than any other drug is because marijuana stays in your system longer, then, if teens get caught, they are put in front of a judge and face EITHER time in juvenile detention or in treatment. It's an obvious decision to go to treatment and not face juvy time.

is it really addidcting

@TheCoolKid Yes

i agree

The reason Marijuana is the most abused drug is because it does the least amount of damage to the body and its effects are milder than that of other abused drugs

@Truth It could also be that marijuana is easier to find than other drugs. Tobacco and alcohol the most commonly abused drugs—that isn’t because they aren’t harmful, but they are readily available.

also if the NIDA admits that cannabis has medical value why are they not doing anything about the DEA's scheduling of Cannabis as a Drug with no medical benefits?

@Truth NIDA’s role is to support research—which we are doing, including research on the potential value of cannabinoids for treating pain, for example. We are not responsible for drug scheduling.

I really enjoyed the design and write-ups of your blog.
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I agree on the subject: most teenagers are not smoking marijuana, but the real point is that most of them tried marijuana on the first stage of their addiction, once they have tried it, them they move into harder drugs, so it is important help them in that first stage, where it is fairly easy to quit from marijuana compared to other stages in their life, when they have become addicted to harder substances. That's why we are fighting addictions in those first stages before they become addicted to crack, amphetamines, morphine, etc. Thats why I believe our labor is very important. Thanks!

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@Jackl More efficient laws would help with that.

I heard from a friend that there were tests done on this issue and under the age of 22 years old there were certain negatives.

Cannabis is not really harmful in itself. It has minor sideeffects like short term memory loss and dry mouth.
Letting adults be stopped in their rights as humans to use this plant as a healing herb with positive mood effects is just wrong in itself. If you ask me this debate should be over.

Rune Ellingsen

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stop trying to scare people into thinking marijuana is bad cause it isn't i smoke it and i have good grades in school i can remember things fine and the only side effects Ive ever had are happy and hungry so really do you think your advancing the development of the human species in any way by whining about how "marijuana is bad"... no so why don't you try promoting world peace or something.

But all in all i personally don't care if you like marijuana or not i just think its annoying that nowadays people don't know how to mind their own (pardon my french) [expletive deleted, per guidelines] business and stop trying to change other people and just work on bettering themselves

@kcdude53 nice comments keep spreading the real truth man

yah!lol i say that if you smoke pot your going to damage yourself so dont because i mean the people that do i do and dont feel sorry for! you know?

if you somke you can die and damge your say

i haye people who somke pot and who do other stuff!!!!

To say that marijuana has over 400 hundred chemicals is bs. Even if there is it doesn't mean they're necessarily bad for you, and if they are how come these bs sites dont name them? Because its a guess, a scare tactic it outrages me to see these lies like the ones on this site get this much attention and the real truth not getting any. In my opinion every human on this earth should be required to see the movie The Union: The Business Behind Getting High on netflix. all of the people on that documentary are scientists, authorities of law, and major universities such as Harvard, ucla, and Yale all spreading the truth and evidence of years of study and experimenting of the marijuana plant. And all these anti-drug sites stop saying marijuana is a bunch of dried leaves when in fact it is the flower bud. That shows how much you obviously know about this herb. And yes I am a very light user and I can say I've had no trouble quitting at all and the only short term memory is when your high and all of these "side effects" are the effects of the high so stop spreading untrue facts like saying not doing marijuana is what all the cool kids are doing when obviously you had a hard time in high school. You wanted to join the cool crowd but you. Never could. I'm only speaking my mind and hope every person on this site can read this and continue to spread the truth and finally decriminalize this herb and illegalise tobacco and alcohol. THANK YOU ALL FOR READING THIS AND GOOD DAY TO YOU!!!!

True, a large number of chemical components in something does not necessarily mean it is bad for you. What it does mean is that there can be many variations and many unknowns. One reason you don’t frequently see a list of the compounds is because marijuana is so complex that researchers are still identifying new compounds in marijuana plants. Some of these discoveries are due to variations in the plants – others are because the chemicals have never before been identified. Examples of the types of compounds found in marijuana to date include: terpenes (over 100 different types), cannabinoids (over 60 different types), hydrocarbons (about 50 types), steroids, fatty acids, simple acids, amino acids, flavonoids, proteins, sugars, nitrogenous compounds, simple ketones, esters and lactones, phenols, and the list goes on and will prob’ly keep growing.

Yes marijuana is really addicting and you would even fall for it easily if you are smoking cigarette. For me I do not smoke because I just hate it but I know my friends who do and sad the same thing. Anyways really great post, I am going to share it to my friends on which smoke pot.
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its a very poweerful drug in the us

i smoke pot every weekend. i smoke nearly $200 worth. but i dont smoke on the week days and i have never had a problem with addiction. weed is not bad for people. it actually saves peoples lives so people need to stop saying that it is bad for you. all the people are doing that say this stuff are making up lies to scare people so the gov't can stay on top. weed is the best plant on this planet

So, we’re not sure what the Government is trying to “stay on top of,” but NIDA’s mission has to do with improving public health, not setting policy. The current state of the science provides room for healthy debate on the issue as marijuana has been shown to have both harmful and beneficial effects – depending on numerous factors. Unfortunately, this debate has, at times, become noisy and unproductive.

It is true that we live in a world where all that are damaging to children, teens and young ... We will pay the price arises, very expensive
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Nowadays, young people get stuck in so many trap. They must be spiritual to cope with these issue to have a healthy life.

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most teens will not admit any use of drugs, especially to the school or government agencies. I am not sure how well you can draw a conclusion out of the research. Just my opinion. [commercial name removed, per guidelines]

Marajuana has over 400 chemicals in it, but do you know that else has has over 400 chemicals every single plant on planet earth

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It doesn't matter that cannabis has grown in potency, or teenagers apparently don't know how strong their bud is. All it means is that you smoke less of it (which is really such a BAD thing) or you smoke too much and have a couple hours of discomfort. There have been 0 deaths linked directly to cannabis. That is, no one has ever took a hit of a joint and died without any other negating factors. Some claim that marijuana kills people because it impairs driving. By that logic, cell phones kill too.

In fact, the potency of marijuana does matter.  Marijuana with a lot of THC can have strong, negative effects on the developing teen brain.  

However, we agree that using cell phones while driving is dangerous.  Check out for more information.

I think I have ben away too long. About time for me to research your site and help spread some knowledge. :)
you shouldnt look down on marijuana. Alcohol is way worse for you along with tobacco so if those are legal marijuana should be too
The reason marijuana is illegal is not because it is addicting or kills you which is not true. It is illegal because in the early 1900`s a slander campaign was in act because racist white men thought that marijuana could get white women todo whatever black men want. So with that intolerance and ignurance gine lets make it legal.


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