How Marijuana Affects a Teen’s Developing Brain

Marijuana is one of the most common drugs of abuse among teens. A mix of dried pieces of leaves, seeds, stems and flowers, marijuana is usually smoked by teenagers, but it can be ingested in baked goods and other food items as well.

Many parents believe that marijuana use among teens is relatively harmless, a “rite of passage” that many of them say they indulged in and survived without a problem. However, today’s marijuana strands have a much higher amount of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in the drug, as compared to the versions available in the 1970s. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that, on average, today’s marijuana contains almost 10 percent THC.

A study published in the journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience reported that use of marijuana during the teen years negatively impacted:

  • Brain structure volume
  • Quality of white matter
  • Ability to perform cognitive function

If marijuana abuse is an issue for your son, help him stop today. Contact us at Muir Wood now.

Teen Development

Unlike adults, the teen brain is actively developing and often will not stop until the mid-20s. Drinking and drug use during this period can have a hugely detrimental impact, affecting your teen’s ability to progress and grow on numerous fronts, including:

  • Emotional development
  • Academic retention
  • Social interactions

How does this happen? The THC in marijuana affects the way that sensory information is processed by the hippocampus, part of the limbic system in the brain that controls learning and memory as well as the combination of sensory experiences with emotion and motivation. By suppressing the neurons in the hippocampus, THC causes learned behaviors to deteriorate; thus the teen’s ability to handle stimuli productively is stunted.

Mental Health Effects

Marijuana’s lasting effects on the brain impact both physical and mental health in teens. The Rhode Island state government reports that teen mental health can be impacted by frequent use of the drug in the following ways:

  • Doubles the risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts as compared to peers who do not smoke marijuana
  • Increased risk of developing schizophrenia in later teen years

Why is mental and emotional development so hindered by marijuana use? In teens, the area of the brain responsible for emotion and memory is very well developed, but the area of the brain dedicated to judgment still needs time to mature. Marijuana use stops this growth, and those emotional highs and lows of the teen years can become overwhelming, resulting in mental health issues.


contact muir wood

contact muir wood


Addressing Marijuana Use in Boys

Marijuana is one of the most common drugs of abuse by teens and is therefore one of the most commonly cited reasons for drug rehab among teenage patients. If your son is using marijuana – even on an “experimental” level – don’t ignore the situation or simply hope it will pass. Action taken by parents is effective and can drastically impact whether or not their children suffer the consequences of chronic drug abuse and addiction.

At Muir Wood, we provide a structured, safe teen-specific rehabilitation program for boys that focuses on building their confidence and helping them to overcome impulse behaviors, co-occurring mental health and behavioral issues, and other problems that may be holding them back. Contact us now to find out more at the phone number above or download an application packet to get started.

Return to Commonly Abused Substances…