Adolescents More at Risk From THC Than Ever

by Vins

Cannabis has been a hot topic in recent years. With its legalization for medicinal and recreational use in many states, countless Americans have come to view it in a brighter light. However, most do not know the harmful side effects this drug has on developing minds. Its effects on children are just now being realized—as Aimee Cunningham reported for Science News in January 2024—in part because generations of researchers simply were unable to legally acquire the plants.

Adolescents even as old as 19 are at high risk of a slew of mental problems springing from long-term and even short-term cannabis use. These side effects include depression, suicidal thoughts/ideations, psychosis, and even thinning of the prefrontal cortex.

The problem is THC, the main psychoactive element within cannabis. It’s what gives the user a high. Thanks to industrial cultivation for the exploding mass market, the THC levels within cannabis plants have increased from 4 percent in 1995 to a whopping 20 percent or more today. More concentrated products such as waxes, budders, or shatters can have upwards of 90 percent THC.

Is this even cannabis anymore? “These are new drugs,” said neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “We need to start calling them something else.”

The more adults use cannabis, and the more the public accepts adult use, the more likely for youngsters to assume that it must be safe for them, too. Corporate media has done young people a disservice by not disseminating the fact that, for developing minds, cannabis is still a drug, and a harmful one.

Source: Aimee Cunningham, “The Teen Brain Is Especially Susceptible to the Harms of THC,” Science News, January 5, 2024.

Student Researcher: Brooke Palmer (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)