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Cannabis and Teens

Key points

  • In 2022, 30.7% of 12th graders reported using cannabis in the past year, and 6.3% reported using cannabis daily in the past 30 days.
  • Cannabis use can have permanent effects on the developing brain when use begins in adolescence, especially with regular or heavy use.

What you need to know about cannabis use and teens

The teen years are a time of growth, exploration, and risk-taking. Some risk-taking may foster identity development and independence (e.g., running for student council, asking someone out on a date). However, some risk behaviors—such as using cannabis—can have adverse effects on a teen's health and well-being.

How many teens use cannabis?

In 2022, 30.7% of US high school 12th graders reported using cannabis in the past year, and 6.3% reported using cannabis daily in the past 30 days.1 Past-year vaping of cannabis declined from 2020 to 2021 and remained steady in 2022 following large increases in 2018 and 2019. However, many middle and high school students still reported past-year cannabis vaping in 2022—6% of eighth graders, 15% of 10th graders, and 21% of 12th graders.1

Cannabis and the teen brain

The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until around age 25. Cannabis use during adolescence and young adulthood may harm the developing brain.23

Compared with teens who do not use cannabis, teens who use cannabis are more likely to quit high school or not get a college degree.2

Negative effects of teen cannabis use

Negative effects include: 2

  • Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
  • Problems with memory and learning
  • Reduced coordination
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Problems with school and social life

How can cannabis impact a teen's life:

  • Increased risk of mental health issues. Cannabis use has been linked to a range of mental health problems, such as depression and social anxiety.2 People who use cannabis are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren't there). 4The association between cannabis and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using cannabis at an earlier age and use cannabis more frequently.
  • Impaired driving. Driving while impaired by any substance, including cannabis, is dangerous and illegal. Cannabis negatively affects several skills required for safe driving, such as reaction time, coordination, and concentration.25
  • Potential for addiction. Approximately 3 in 10 people who use cannabis have cannabis use disorder.6 Some signs and symptoms of cannabis use disorder include trying but failing to quit using cannabis or giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using cannabis.7 The risk of developing cannabis use disorder is stronger in people who start using cannabis during youth or adolescence and who use cannabis more frequently.

How can you educate yourself and others?

What teens can do

  • Learn the facts about cannabis use so that you can make informed decisions.
  • Share information that you learn with friends, parents/guardians, teachers, and others.
  • Choose not to drive if you are planning to use, are using, or have used cannabis.

What parents can do

  • Talk with your children about the risks of using cannabis while their brains are still developing. Ask your children questions about their cannabis use.
  • Know the facts about cannabis. People that begin using cannabis in their teens are more likely to have lasting brain developmental effects and a higher potential for cannabis use disorder.
  • Use the resources below to learn more.
  1. Miech RA, Johnston LD, Patrick ME, et al. Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2022: Secondary school students. Monitoring the Future Monograph Series. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. 2023. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  2. 2. National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017. Accessed February 8, 2024.
  3. Batalla A, Bhattacharyya S, Yücel M, et al. Structural and functional imaging studies in chronic cannabis users: a systematic review of adolescent and adult findings. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e55821. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055821.
  4. Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evins AE, et al. Effects of cannabis use on human behavior, including cognition, motivation, and psychosis: A review. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(3):292-297. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.3278.
  5. Compton R. Marijuana-impaired driving. A report to Congress. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffics Safety Administration, 2017.
  6. Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of marijuana use disorders in the United States between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858.
  7. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA, 2013.
  • Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005.