Marijuana is the second most used drug of choice for Beaverton Youth. For those parents who used marijuana when they were young, it may seem that there is “much ado about nothing”. Much like alcohol, you may believe that it is better than some of the alternatives. What is the difference from when you were growing up? Marijuana has a chemical in it called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A lot of other chemicals are found in marijuana too - about 400 of them, some of which may cause lung cancer. But THC is the main active ingredient. In 1974, marijuana averaged less than one percent THC. Now the minimum is four percent with some as high as 25%.
So what happens to the brain with marijuana? For some people, smoking marijuana makes them feel good. Within minutes of inhaling, a user begins to feel "high," or filled with pleasant sensations. THC triggers brain cells to release the chemical dopamine. Dopamine creates good feelings for a short time but affects brain function. Researchers have found that THC changes the way in which sensory information gets into and is acted on by the part of the brain that is crucial for learning, memory, and the integration of sensory experiences with emotions and motivations.
Because a teen brain is still “under construction”, research on marijuana use among young people below college age indicates those who used have lower achievement than the non-users. Due to the part of the brain that is affected, a teen shows greater rebelliousness, poorer relationships with parents, and more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends.