People smoke pot for a lot of different reasons: to feel good, to feel better, to feel different, or to fit in. Whatever the reason, drug use has consequences.
Marijuana is addictive. Of course, not everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted—that depends on a whole bunch of factors—including your family history (genes), the age you start using, whether you also use other drugs, family and peer relationships, success in school, etc. Repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction—which means that people have difficulty controlling their drug use and often cannot stop even though they want to, and even though it undermines many aspects of their lives. Research shows that approximately 9 percent, or about 1 in 11, of those who use marijuana at least once will become addicted. This rate increases to 16 percent, or about 1 in 6, if you start in your teens, and goes up to 25-50 percent among daily users. Moreover, among young people in drug abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 61 percent of those under age 15 and 56 percent of those 15-19.
To help you make an informed choice, the following are some brief summaries of what marijuana research is telling us. These topics represent the most popular questions and comments we get every day on our teen Web site and blog. Share them with your friends to help them separate fact from myth. This booklet also includes FAQs and additional resources for more information.
Marijuana is UNsafe if you are behind the wheel. Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found in drivers who die in accidents (around 14 percent of drivers), often in combination with alcohol or other drugs. Marijuana affects a number of skills required for safe driving—alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time—so it's not safe to drive high or to ride with someone who's been smoking. Marijuana makes it hard to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. And combining marijuana with drinking even a small amount of alcohol greatly increases driving danger, more than either drug alone.
Marijuana is linked to school failure. Marijuana's negative effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks—especially if you smoke often. Someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning with a "dimmed-down" brain most or all of the time. Compared with their peers who don't smoke, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school. Also, longtime marijuana users themselves report being less satisfied with their lives, experiencing memory and relationship problems, poorer mental and physical health, lower salaries, and less career success.
High doses of marijuana can cause psychosis or panic when you're high. Some people experience an acute psychotic reaction (disturbed perceptions and thoughts, paranoia) or panic attacks while under the influence of marijuana. This usually goes away as the drug's effects wear off. Scientists do not yet know if marijuana use causes lasting mental illness, although it can worsen psychotic symptoms in people who already have the mental illness schizophrenia, and it can increase the risk of long-lasting psychosis in those vulnerable to the disease.
As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior.