Youth Say WHAT about Cannabis?

Written by Jessica Brett, Public Health Nurse

Ottawa Public Health

As a parent do you ever think about how it would be easier if you knew what your teen was thinking sometimes? That would be nice, right?

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) recently released the Canadian Youth Perceptions on Cannabis report. The report focuses on just that, what teens are thinking about cannabis.

Before you start to talk with your teen about cannabis you should have the facts yourself. Have you ever thought back about why you did or didn't use cannabis when you were a teen?

Here are some of the myths teens are saying about cannabis and the facts to help your understanding.

Teens say: Driving high can be dangerous, but the effects depend on the driver.

Everyone needs attention, judgment and a quick response time to drive safely. Using cannabis and then driving effects these skills. To make up for the impairments, some people will slow down or leave more room between vehicles. Doing this may not be enough to make up for the impairments. In fact, using cannabis and then driving actually doubles the risk of being in a car crash.

Teens say: I know using cannabis can harm my brain, but I'm not sure how and why.

During the teen years the brain goes through changes to develop the "thinking brain". The thinking brain controls decision-making. If teens use cannabis while the brain is going through these changes the thinking brain may not develop normally. This is because the mind-altering substance in cannabis, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), "hi-jacks" the normal system that is involved with the development. This causes changes to normal brain development and teens use their "emotional brain" instead which causes poor decision-making.

Teens say: Cannabis isn't even addictive. Or is it addictive?

About 5-9% of cannabis users will develop dependence. This number increases to 17% for those that started using as a teen.

Teens say: Only people that use often and for a long time will have long-term effects.

The changes to the brain can lead to dependence, mental health problems, and impacts on school or work. These are long-term effects, but the path to dependence can start the first time someone uses. Half of the cases of cannabis dependence were seen about five years after the first use.

Have you heard any of these myths from your teen? The CCSA researchers talked to 77 teens aged 14-19 years old across Canada so it is possible you're teen could think some of these same myths.

Being there for your teenager is important and can decrease the chance they will use cannabis when times get tough. Have you tried to talk with your teen? How did it go?

Check out these tips on talking with your teen about substance use:

For more myths and facts, check out this resource. Get the facts about cannabis on our Parenting in Ottawa website and join the conversation on our Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page

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