Despite widespread belief that it does little harm, alcohol and marijuana use by teens has grave consequences on medical, financial, social and other levels, writes Kathleen Meyers, an expert in the treatment of adolescent substance use disorders. “Substance use disorders are strongly associated with the three leading causes of death among youth — accidents, homicide and suicide — and significantly contribute to unwanted pregnancy, school dropout, violence and delinquency.”
Each year at prom and graduation time, many families allow alcohol use at celebratory parties for their underage children with the view that they will be safe in those surroundings and may even learn responsible drinking. In light of the medicalization, legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, it seems that the U.S. public has become much more tolerant of what many consider benign substance use in society.
In fact, we are frequently asked:
First, alcohol and marijuana are not benign substances, particularly on the developing adolescent brain. At a most basic level, the adolescent brain is more susceptible to the addictive effects of substances, making use a risky proposition. Marijuana, alcohol and all other drugs of abuse show diverse neurotoxic effects, adversely affecting brain development and maturation in the areas related to motivation, memory and learning, and inhibition.
Substance use disorders are routinely associated with a costly combination of social, physical, mental and public health problems.
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