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How Do I Spot Signs of THC Abuse in My Teenager?

If you think your teen is using THC, it's important to know the warning signs so you can get them the help they need.

Today’s teenagers must navigate through a maze of pressures and temptations unlike any generation before has encountered. Today’s fast-pasted environment coupled with the physical and emotional changes taking place during the teenage years can predispose teens to substance abuse practices as a means for coping with daily life.

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, acts as a stimulant, depressant and psychedelic all at once producing a range of chemical effects in the brain. As the most commonly abused drug among teenagers, THC can produce harmful effects in a teen’s life on both a physical and psychological level. Understanding how THC works can help in spotting signs of THC abuse in your teen and getting him or her needed treatment help.

THC Effects on a Teenager’s Brain

THC effects on a teenager’s brain develop out of the impact this drug has on the cannabinoid system, an area of the brain that undergoes development during the teenage years, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine. The cannabinoid system relies on stable levels of neurotransmitter chemicals to function normally.

THC’s ability to interfere with this system has to do with similarities between THC itself and the chemicals that regulate the cannabinoid system. This means, each time a teen engages in THC abuse, the drug’s effects alter chemical processes within this area of the brain.

With repeated drug use, growing chemical imbalances can impair a teen’s emotional development, academic ability as well as his or her ability to form healthy relationships with others.

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Signs of THC Abuse

THC Abuse

If your teen is suddenly skipping more days at school, they may be abusing THC.

Signs of THC abuse become easier to spot the longer a teen engages in drug use as THC has a cumulative effect on brain functioning over time. Signs to watch out for can show up in your teen’s physical health as well as in his or her daily behaviors.

Physical signs:

  • Clumsiness, poor coordination
  • Bloodshot eyes or “sleepy looking” eyes
  • Increased thirst due to dry mouth
  • Delayed reaction times or reflexes
  • Chronic, phlegmy cough

Behavioral signs:

  • Suspiciousness or paranoid behavior
  • Missed days at school
  • Low motivation levels
  • Sudden change in social group
  • Binge eating episodes
  • Memory lapses
  • Always needing money
  • Missing items in the household

Teens engaging in THC abuse will also likely have drug paraphernalia in their rooms. Drug paraphernalia commonly used include bongs, pipes, plastic baggies, rolling papers and/or cans with holes cut on the side.

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Risk Factors

According to Pacific University, frequent THC abuse in teens can lead to any number of developmental problems, impairing a teen’s physical and psychological health, both now and in later years. The smoke and tar resins from smoking THC places teens at increased risk of developing cancer of the lungs, neck and respiratory tract.

THC effects on the areas of the brain regulating thinking and emotions also comes with increased risk of developing mental illness, especially when THC abuse occurs over a period of years.

Treatment Considerations

The changes in legislation affecting marijuana use and distribution can easily send the wrong message to teens in terms of the actual risks associated with THC abuse. For these reasons, it’s especially important to be able to spot signs of THC abuse in your teen and take action to get him or her needed treatment help.

If you suspect your teen may be engaging in THC abuse and have more questions about how this drug works, or need help finding treatment that meets his or her needs, please don’t hesitate to call our toll-free helpline at 800-609-2774 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.

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