The Rise of Marijuana Addiction Among Teens

by Robert Hunt
(Malibu, CA, USA)

“The first time I smoked”, said John, “it was the summer before 8th grade. I was very curious about getting high because all my friends were talking about it. I had a few hits, but didn’t really experience a high the first time. So, later, the next time I smoked, I got really high and I can’t say I knew what happened but I wanted more. I wanted more because I liked it. I knew then that I didn’t want to stop.”

Easy to get addicted

It’s an easy drug to get addicted to. Although marijuana won’t create a strong physical dependency like cocaine, marijuana addiction can happen because the psychological dependency that can develop. It feels good and it is often used by teens to keep difficult emotions at bay. When teens are depressed or anxious, for example, marijuana helps to reduce psychological stress and bring feelings of ease.

Often, when parents learn that their teens are smoking marijuana, they fear that their children will explore other drugs as well. Marijuana is a popularly known as the gateway drug, meaning that once a teen begins using it, it’s likely going to lead to the use of other drugs. However, a recent study indicates that that may not be true.

The 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey that interviewed about 45,000 students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades provides a picture of the use of drugs and their attitudes towards them. The survey indicates that although teen marijuana abuse is on the rise, the use of other illicit drugs has leveled off. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the leader of the survey, reported that the use of alcohol has decreased among teens and continues to go down.

The rate of alcohol use in the last 30 days has decreased to 40% of teens, the lowest rate in the history of the Monitoring the Future Survey.
The addictions that are developing in homes, at schools, around the nation speak to a large problem among adolescents. It’s one thing for teens to try drugs and to use them occasionally. However, it’s another to continue to use them to the point where an addiction develops, to the point where self-destruction takes place. Using and developing an addiction to drugs is often the result of unresolved, underlying issues.

Not the real problem

Let’s face it. Any addiction to alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, or other substances is not really the problem. Although addiction is a dysfunctional and cyclical pattern that creates challenges for teens, for their entire family, and everyone around them, the addiction is not the real problem. Even though an addiction to substances might have led a teen to truancy, expulsion from school, juvenile detention, failing grades, and a host of other major problems, solving these are not going to resolve the addiction.

The real problems behind addiction are the underlying issues, such as unresolved emotions and/or traumatic experiences. It is the shame, guilt, anger, and anxiety that are too difficult to actually experience. These feelings might have been the result of childhood sexual or physical abuse, witnessing violence between your parents, bearing the burden of a stepmother or stepfather moving into your home, or experiencing a death in your family.

Describing her addiction to marijuana, one teen put it this way, “I knew I had a problem; however, I didn’t really want to stop. Honestly, I didn’t want to have real feelings again.”

This post was authored by Robert Hunt of Paradigm Malibu. You can find him on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert.

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