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Posted under: Community Submitted News

The Importance Of Getting Real With Your Teens About Marijuana And Mental Health

It's not just a "quick trip".

Across the United States, marijuana is increasingly becoming legalized. This legalization is changing how individuals view the intake of marijuana. Currently, 11 states including the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for 21 and over and 33 states have legalized the medical use. Dispensaries are becoming more common in urban communities. Marijuana is becoming more socialized among diverse groups of individuals and accepted as a drug of choice. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has found that due to the conflicting messages delivered through the legalization of the drug, there is a decline amongst teens that view the drug as harmful. Furthermore, research on the impact of the drug is still evolving and recent research has noted some huge mental health impacts.

Marijuana has become commonly used to treat chronic pain and nausea. It is often prescribed by doctors for these reasons. Despite the health benefits, there are some side effects of marijuana like any other drug. But these side effects can be exaggerated among those individuals with existing mental health challenges. Researchers have found that marijuana causes depression and suicidal ideation among male teens. It is a known fact that marijuana is often used to self medicate. With a rise in deaths by suicide in the Black community, it is important to identify the potential influences of suicidal ideation. Marijuana has become one of those mediators. Black parents should be aware of the drug once coined a gateway to other highly addictive drugs. In fact, The National Institute on Drug Abuse believes that parents are the key to challenging and changing children’s behaviors. If Black parents have the awareness of the impact of marijuana, they can begin to develop a well-informed view of marijuana influence their children’s behaviors. 

What Parents Should Know

  1. There are short term effects of marijuana use such as memory problems, poor coordination, distorted perception, paranoia, and anxiety.
  2. Sleep issues, learning and memory problems can last longer.
  3. Repeated use can lead to more severe issues such as addiction, bronchitis, learning difficulties, and memory loss.
  4. Marijuana has been linked to schizophrenia in those with genetic predispositions. 
  5. Marijuana has been linked to depression and suicidal thoughts. 
  6. Biology and genetics of the individual can play a role in the severity of the effects of marijuana. 

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Based on what researchers and The National Institute on Drug Abuse have found about the effects of marijuana, there are some steps parents can take to ensure their children make informed decisions. 

Steps Parents Should Take 

  1. Stay Current. Look at what is going on in the media and in research regarding adolescents and the use of marijuana. Know the facts.
  2. Talk about it. Children need to know that marijuana may seem like the cool thing to do but there are some major side effects. Share the short term and long term effects.
  3. Talk about mental health history. Share the family history of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc. Discussing how mental health history can be influenced by marijuana may impact decisions to partake in it.
  4. Discuss safety:  It is important to share information on safe usage, modality and explain the implications related to the potency of marijuana. Explaining how marijuana interacts within the body in various forms may also prevent youth from using the drug.

It is believed that the legalization of marijuana will increase the number of users. This can further influence the age of the user. It is important that parents stay informed and be open to sharing information. Sharing information is not supporting the use of the drug but it can minimize the interest in using the drug if leveraged properly. With the rise of self-injury in the Black community, as a community,y we can not afford to take the risk. Using marijuana without knowledge of family mental health history, genetic disposition or the potential short/long term effects is taking a risk. 

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Dr. Narketta Sparkman-Key is an Associate Professor of Human Services and director of the Human Services Undergraduate Program at Old Dominion University. She is trained in recognizing and responding to suicide and in conducting psychological suicide autopsies. She holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in Human Services with a focus on Social and Community Services. She also holds certificates in global health and college teaching. Her research is geared towards further defining the professional identity of human services practitioners and delineating practice with vulnerable populations. She is also an award winning international speaker, an expert in self-esteem development, adolescent suicide and vulnerable populations. As a published researcher, professor and scholar she has served as an subject matter expert delivering electrifying speeches at conferences, workshops and panel discussions. Dr. Key is known for her ability to provide action-oriented steps and research based strategies to transform and transcend her audience.