Marijuana and Youth: The Impact of Marijuana Use on Teen Health and Wellbeing

Students studying outdoors

National Cannabis Awareness Month is observed in April to increase awareness and education about marijuana. While scientists are still learning about the risks and benefits of using marijuana, we know that marijuana use can harm a teen’s health and wellbeing.

Fast Facts

  • In 2022, 30.7% of 12th graders reported using marijuana in the past year, and 6.3% reported using marijuana daily in the past 30 days.1
  • Compared to teens who do not use marijuana, teens who use marijuana may be less likely to graduate from high school or college.2,3
  • Research shows that marijuana use during teen years can harm the brain.4,5
drugs and booze at a house party

How Does Marijuana Use Affect Teen Health?

The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until around age 25. Marijuana use is associated with increased risk for the following issues4:

  • Polysubstance Use: The use of more than one substance, including when two or more substances are taken together within a short period, either intentionally or unintentionally.
  • Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time will likely cause greater impairment and risk of physical harm than using either one alone.6
  • Previous use of marijuana or using marijuana in combination with opioids may increase risk for prescription opioid misuse.7,8
  • Marijuana may change how prescription drugs work.9
  • Harm to brain health. Marijuana use beginning in teen years or younger may affect brain development which may impair thinking, memory, and learning.
  • Mental health issues. Marijuana use has been linked to depression and social anxiety in adults.4 People that use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (hallucinations, not knowing what is real, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia.

    Schizophrenia is a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren’t there. The association between marijuana and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using marijuana frequently at an early age.10
  • Impaired driving. Driving while impaired by marijuana is dangerous and illegal. Marijuana affects reaction time, coordination, and concentration—skills required for safe driving.11
  • Increased potential for marijuana use disorder. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are at increased risk of developing marijuana use disorder.12

Marijuana Use Disorder: The inability to stop using marijuana even though it’s causing health and/or social problems.

Some signs of marijuana use disorder include trying but failing to quit using marijuana or giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.13

How Can You Educate Yourself and Others?

What teens can do

  • Learn the facts about marijuana 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 marijuana.

What parents can do

  • Talk with your children about the risks of using marijuana while their brains are still developing. Ask your children questions about their marijuana use.
  • Know the facts about marijuana. People that begin using marijuana in their teens are more likely to have lasting brain developmental effects and a higher potential of marijuana use disorder.
  • Use the resources below to learn more.
Related Features
  1. Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., Patrick, M. E., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg J. E. (2023). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2022. Monitoring the Future Monograph Series. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan.
  2. Macleod J, Oakes R, Copello A, et al. Psychological and social sequelae of cannabis and other illicit drug use by young people: a systematic review of longitudinal, general population studies. Lancet Lond Engl. 2004;363(9421):1579-1588.
  3. Silins E, Horwood LJ, Patton GC, et al. Young adult sequelae of adolescent cannabis use: an integrative analysis. Lancet Psychiatry. 2014;1(4):286-293
  4. National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine, “The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research,” Washington, DC, 2017.
  5. Batalla A, Bhattacharyya S, Yücel M, Fusar-Poli P, Crippa JA, Nogué S, Torrens M, Pujol J, Farré M, Martin-Santos R. Structural and functional imaging studies in chronic cannabis users: a systematic review of adolescent and adult findings. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e55821.
  6. Yurasek AM, Aston ER, Metrik J. Co-use of alcohol and cannabis: A review. Current Addiction Reports. 2017;4(2):184-193.
  7. Cooper ZD, Bedi G, Ramesh D, Balter R, Comer SD, Haney M. Impact of co-administration of oxycodone and smoked cannabis on analgesia and abuse liability. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43(10):2046-2055.
  8. Fiellin LE, Tetrault JM, Becker WC, Fiellin DA, Hoff RA. Previous use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana and subsequent abuse of prescription opioids in young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2013;52(2):158-163.
  9. Antoniou T, Bodkin J, Ho JM. Drug interactions with cannabinoids. CMAJ. 2020;192(9):E206.
  10. Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evins AE, DeLisi LE, Meier MH, Gonzalez R, Bloomfield MA, Curran HV, Baler R. Effects of Cannabis Use on Human Behavior, Including Cognition, Motivation, and Psychosis: A Review. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;73(3):292-7.
  11. Compton R. (2017, July). Marijuana-Impaired Driving – A Report to Congress. (DOT HS 812 440). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  12. 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.
  13. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA, 2013.