Cannabis Myths

Do you know the facts about cannabis? Here are some common myths.

MYTH: Cannabis (or Marijuana) is harmless.

FACT: Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug among youth today and is more potent than ever. Marijuana use can lead to a host of significant health, social, learning, and behavioral problems at a crucial time in a young person's development. Getting high also impairs judgment, which can lead to risky decision making on issues like sex, criminal activity, or riding with someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)at Columbia University, teens who use drugs are five times more likely to have sex than teens who do not use drugs. Getting high also contributes to general apathy, irresponsible behavior, and risky choices.

MYTH: You can't get addicted to cannabis.

FACT: Don’t be fooled by popular beliefs. Kids can get hooked on pot. Research shows that marijuana use can lead to addiction. Each year, more kids enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined.

MYTH: There's not much parents can do to stop their kids from "experimenting" with cannabis.

FACT: Most parents are surprised to learn that they are the most powerful influence on their children when it comes to drugs. But, it's true, so this message needs to start with parents. Kids need to hear how risky marijuana use can be. They need to know how damaging it can be to their lives. And they need to begin by listening to someone they trust. By staying involved, knowing what their kids are doing, and setting limits with clear rules and consequences, parents can keep their kids drug-free.

MYTH: There are no long-term consequences to cannabis use.

FACT: Research shows that kids who smoke marijuana engage in risky behavior that can jeopardize their futures, like having sex, getting in trouble with the law, or losing scholarship money. Marijuana can also hurt academic achievement and puts kids at risk for depression and anxiety.

MYTH: Cannabis isn't as popular as other drugs like ecstasy among teens today.

FACT: Kids use marijuana far more than any other illegal drug. Among kids who use drugs, 60 percent use only marijuana.

MYTH: Young kids won't be exposed to cannabis.

FACT: While overall marijuana use has decreased, many children and teens are still using it. According to the annual Monitoring the Future U.S. national poll, in the past seven years, the number of eighth graders who had used marijuana decreased from approximately one in five to slightly more than one in 10. With recent research now linking marijuana use to mental health disorders like depression and schizophrenia, this is still far too many. The same report notes that, by 12th grade, marijuana use increases to more than two in five teens.

MYTH: Parents who experimented with marijuana in their youth would be hypocrites if they told their kids not to try it.

FACT: Parents need to make their own decisions about whether to talk to their children about their own drug use. But parents can tell their kids that much more is known today about the serious health and social consequences of using marijuana.

As your teens go through high school and prepare for college they are at an increased risk for drug use and drinking. However, high school is the critical point in building the academic foundation for the rest of their lives. Be sure your teens remain drug-free during these critical learning years.

Marijuana is riskier than you think. It can limit your teen’s achievement in the classroom, on standardized tests and in the future.

  • Marijuana can hinder a teen's ability to learn. Heavy marijuana use impairs young people's ability to concentrate and retain information.1 This can be especially problematic during peak learning years.
  • Marijuana use is linked to poorer grades. A teen with a "D" average is four times more likely to have used marijuana than a teen with an "A" average. 2
  • Marijuana and underage drinking are linked to higher dropout rates. Students who drink or use drugs frequently are up to five times more likely than their peers to drop out of high school.3 A teenage marijuana user's odds of dropping out are more than twice that of a non-user.4

Marijuana is addictive. It can cause problems for young users when their bodies and brains are still developing, which decreases their likelihood of success.

  • Research also shows that marijuana use is three times more likely to lead to dependence among adolescents than among adults. Research indicates that the earlier kids start using marijuana, the more likely they are to become dependent on this or other illicit drugs later in life.5
  • Teens who begin marijuana use at an early age when the brain is still developing may be more vulnerable to neuropsychological deficits, especially verbal abilities.6
  • Teens who are regular marijuana users often have short attention spans, decreased energy and ambition, poor judgment, impaired communications skills and diminished effectiveness in social situations — a set of problems called an "amotivational syndrome" by scientists.

Parents need to know the facts about marijuana. Setting rules and enforcing them can make all the difference in teens' lives.

  • Youths who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs.7
  • Parents are the most powerful influence on their kids when it comes to drugs. Two-thirds of youth ages 13-17 say losing their parents' respect is one of the main reasons they don't smoke marijuana or use other drugs.8
  • Parental disapproval plays a strong role in turning back drug use. In 2004, youths who believed that their parents would strongly disapprove of marijuana use had rates over 80 percent lower than those whose parents would not strongly disapprove (5.1 percent use vs. 30 percent use rates).9
  • Kids who learn about the risks of marijuana and other illicit drugs from their parents are far less likely to use drugs.10
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1. Pope HG et al. Early-onset cannabis use and cognitive deficits: What is the nature of the association? Drug and Alcohol Dependence.,69 (3): 303-310, 2003.
2. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) Report: Marijuana use among youths. SAMHSA, 2002. Based on data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse 2000.
3. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). Malignant neglect: Substance abuse and America’s schools. New York: Columbia University, 2001.
4. Bray JW et al. The relationship between marijuana initiation and dropping out of school. Health Economics.,9(1): 9-18, 2000.
5. Youth Marijuana Prevention Initiative:The NCADI Report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2002.  Gfroerer, JC and Epstein, JF. Marijuana initiates and their impact on future drug abuse treatment need. Drug and Alcohol Dependence.,54(3):229-237, 1999. Anthony, JC and Petronis, KR. Early-onset drug use and risk of later drug problems. Drug and Alcohol Dependence., 40: 9-15, 1995. Grant, BF and Dawson, DA. Age of onset of drug use and its association with DSM-IV drug abuse and dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of Substance Abuse,10: 163-173, 1998.
6. Pope, HG et al. Early-onset cannabis use and cognitive deficits: what is the nature of the association? Drug and Alcohol Dependence.,69 (3): 303-310, 2003.
7. Metzler, Rusby and Biglan. Community builders for success: monitoring after-school activities. Oregon Research Institute, 1999.
8. Partnership for a Drug-Free America Attitude Tracking Study, 2002.
9. National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2004. SAMHSA, 2005.
10. Greenblat, J. Self-reported behaviors and their association with marijuana use. SAMHSA. Based on data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 1994-1996.