Substance abuse: the dangers of marijuana and e-cigarettes

By Katie Cederborg

The distinct cotton-candy smell of E-Cigarettes alongside the skunk-like smell that marijuana spreads across campus proves that although “hard drugs” are problematic among minors, drugs that are less commonly acknowledged as problematic are becoming serious issues. Minors, many of whom have decided that considering the seemingly less severe legal consequences in California, these drugs are, in fact, “OK” are the central result of the mass epidemic. E-Cigarettes specifically, have been called the “gateway drug” to smoking, despite the fact that many teenagers believe that “gateway drugs” are just a conspiracy created by Nancy Reagan to rally Americans to fight the “War on Drugs.”

Statistically, the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that among teenagers, 30.1 percent of E-Cigarette users started smoking combustible tobacco products within 6 months while only 8.1 percent of users started smoking in the same amount of time. The platform of E-Cigarettes was for combustible tobacco product users to use them as a “stepping stone” to quitting, instead, it is the other way around.

Photo by Rachel Owen

Most importantly, the adolescent brain is growing until age 25. As the government site Surgeon General states so clearly in their studies, young people’s brains build synapses significantly faster that adults, and because addiction is a form of learning, young people statistically are more likely to become addicted to drugs than adults. As seen in many reckless forms during the vast majority of time as adolescents, the part of the brain that controls decision-making and impulse control is not fully developed, and for this reason their brains are not developed enough to, as many teens argue, “restrain” addiction.

Although the use of marijuana is becoming increasingly common as of late, its negative effects, although often brushed aside, are extremely dangerous to the developing teenage brain. Professor Madeline Meier of Arizona State University told NPR that research found that those who smoked marijuana the most lost a full 8 IQ points in a span of several years. The mind-altering ingredient of marijuana, referred to as THC, is the primary issue.

In studying this, Krista Lishaul, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin concluded that the higher the THC levels, the more there is risk of addiction.

Like how the rates of cigarette users before the scientific research in the mid 20th century had no idea the damage that they were doing to their lungs, marijuana users of today may very well see long-term effects of this substance. NPR found that 6% of high school seniors use marijuana every day, nearly triple the percentage throughout the last decade. It is in the best interest of health that adolescents take the distressing effects of marijuana seriously.

The dangerous effects of these “less-severe” drugs may be tossed aside as just “theories,” but the truth of the matter is that adolescents brains are, in fact, changing, and the long-term result of this mass use of these drugs may be significantly more serious than we expect. Just a few decades ago, people were smoking without a clue of their possibly cancerous future, the question adolescents should ask themselves is, do they too want to look back on their pasts wishing they had known the scientific truth?

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