TEENAGE DRUG USE
Author of “Cannabis is The Human Companion Plant”
At the heart of the debate around teenage drug use is the question of Why? Why do adolescents want to use mind altering substances? Why does any human wish to alter their minds? There’s no one single motivation for teenage drug use but rather a whole plethora of reasons. It is very important for parents and grandparents to understand the reasons for teenage drug use. More important is to talk to your teens about the dangers of drinking and drugs, but in an appropriate way.
Teenage drug use happens when young people see adults smoking and drinking and they associate this with ‘normal’
Popular media ensures around 45% of teens agree that the music they listen to make drinking and dagga seem cool. They also agree that movies and television shows make drugs seem like an ok thing to do. If you are concerned about your teenager using drugs then be aware of what media they consume and speak about it.
Hormones really do control our lives
We have highlighted the importance of hormones throughout life from conception to old-age in a previous post. (mushigoatseedco.com/Cannabis-and-hormones) Other than pimples and sudden interest in dating, can we hold hormones responsible for changes in behavior and emotions? The straight-up answer is an emphatic YES! Puberty hormones start changing around 8 to 14 years old and this continues deep into the 20’s. In fact there are even scholars who believe that ever-changing hormone levels continue to affect our lives until our old-age. All of our hormones affect human behavior and emotions.
When teens are unhappy they need an outlet for their frustration and anger. And many turn to substances for emotional relief and to feel better. Make no mistake, teenage years can be rough and take their toll on children, even causing depression. Remember….many of us have been there and some of us twice! Very often when teenagers are offered something to make them feel better, they can’t resist. Teenage drug use often starts with abuse of prescription drugs that are used to manage stress. For example Ritalin, that is used to treat ADHD and so called ‘hyperactive’ children that was first synthesized in 1944.
If you look closely, these days’ children are put on drugs just for daydreaming and labeled autistic. Others start by abusing painkillers and tranquilizers to cope with their life-stresses.  In Patton et al six scientists peer reviewed this study of teenage drug use. All agree that the major factors affecting adult health are mental health, behavior and lifestyle choices that develop in teens. Increases in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, unsafe sex and aggressive behavior are well documented and their effects on later life. Hormones control all of these things and much more.
From puberty the brain is reshaped and hormonal changes occur until around 28 years. The adolescent brain literally oozes out stress, sex and growth hormones, which in turn also affect brain development. These hormonal changes contribute towards adolescent addictions and mood swings and most addictions do start in the teen years.
Alcohol is the drug of choice for angry teenagers because it frees them to behave aggressively
It’s a fact! Boredom leads to drugs and teens who crave excitement are prime candidates for abuse. Substances like alcohol and dagga fill internal voids many adolescents feel and they find familiarity by interacting with like-minded teens. Many adolescents cannot be alone or even in the company of adults; they need to bond with their own age-groups. Cigarette smoking is also part of teenage drug use. They use it as a form of rebellion to display independence and to make their parents angry!
Teenagers need instant gratification for their self-esteem and they seek out shortcuts to happiness. For them drugs and alcohol work quickly and the effects feel great, boosting their confidence. You can see that teenage drug use is as complicated as young people themselves but it doesn’t have to be. 
The effects of alcohol on adolescent brain development
Teenage use of alcohol and its effects is obviously dependent on the severity of drinking during adolescence. In AD Meruelo et al, neuropsychological changes like overall poor attention, memory and function in heavy adolescent drinkers was observed. Heavy drinkers also demonstrated increased emotional reactivity and poor tolerance for stress. This study looked at nine peer reviewed articles and discovered neuro-anatomic changes in the brains of adolescent drinkers. All research indicated that heavy drinkers presented with smaller brains than non-drinkers.
In studies involving teenage drug use, scientists noticed smaller grey matter volumes and lower white matter integrity. These observations were noted in different brain areas, using MRI technology and compared with non-consumers. I’m not sure this is a realistic marker because in essence adolescence is a process of reducing grey matter. What is important is the reduction in white matter that leads to decreased cognitive functioning. Alcohol doesn’t actually kill brain cells but it can permanently damage dendrites found in the cerebellum. Dendrites are the cellular antennas that branch off brain and nerve cells. This damage greatly reduces the communication between brain cells and causes impairment in brain function.
Sadly some children are born with a predisposition to addiction
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was first clinically diagnosed by Jones and Smith in 1973. This is the most severe form of alcohol damage to the fetus. Severe dysmorphology and growth retardation are the most recognizable traits. It’s even possible for some children to be noticeably more affected than others even if they share the same mother. These children are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems and poor psychosocial development. FAS children are inevitably destined for teenage drug use and also beyond into their adult lives. 
The effects of dagga on adolescent brain development
The most common teenage use of dagga is smoking. In this case the, the maximum effect, the high, occurs within 15 minutes and lasts about an hour. It’s true that today’s dagga is stronger in THC and generally weaker in CBD compared to the 1980’s. Decades ago, 6% THC was considered very strong but today we’re smoking around 25 to 30% THC for breakfast.
The important question is whether THC exposure is different in teenagers than adults. We know that THC works as a partial agonist of the cannabinoid receptors in adolescence and adulthood. This proves that plant-THC has a protective role in the human brain. However, general executive functioning does seem to be more impaired in teenage frequent dagga use compared to adult use.
The presence of the ECS raises the question of whether Cannabis is truly more harmful than alcohol for teenagers
There’s no shortage of reviews exploring the effects of THC on teenagers and many come to the same conclusion. Early onset Cannabis use leads to brain development problems and structural changes in the brain. However, other studies about teen Cannabis use delivered results that were inconsistent with past reviews. Most studies of teenage Cannabis use on brain development are distorted because they look at users who also consume alcohol. So while public opinion is that dagga causes brain damage, the scientific journals are filled with mixed evidence. The harmfulness of Cannabis depends of how it interacts with the teenage brain. Teenage inclination to reduced learning after Cannabis use does not persist after abstinence. 
We now know that cannabinoid receptors increase during adolescence and are well distributed throughout the brain
Some scientists believe that any alteration to ECS during adolescence could result in neurobiological changes leading to poor brain development.  One of the earliest studies of teenage dagga use looked at verbal and nonverbal memory performance in 14 to 16 year olds. Contrary to Claire Gorey et al, it was recorded that short-term memory impairment persisted after 6 weeks of abstinence.  But another study by Teichner et al in 2000 found no link between dagga use and brain damage. The exact degree of any damage caused by dagga is still questionable and unproven despite new studies. Most scientists do describe potential damage involving attention, learning and memory. 
You can’t kill yourself with dagga in the way that you can die from consuming too much alcohol
In our opinion Cannabis is far safer than alcohol in terms of the actual damage it does at cellular level. The reason for this is the expression of receptors in the brain that respond to alcohol or dagga. Cannabis plays a protective role over the brain and neurologists are now studying cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy. They have learnt from their patients how amazing this medicine is for seizures, brain trauma, spasms and other brain conditions.
In our post, Cannabis and brain cells the truth (https://www.mushigoatseedco.com-cannabis-and-brain-cells-the-truth) we explain how Cannabis is responsible for the function of neurogenesis. This means the creation of new brain cells and proves that Cannabis controls cell genesis in the adult brain. To this day no one has ever died from consuming whole herbal Cannabis, even when smoked. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for alcohol.
“Most ‘drugs of abuse’ suppress neurogenesis. Only Cannabis promotes neurogenesis” ~ Dr Xia Zhang (Canadian Researcher) 
Consuming any kind of alcohol in any amount produces free radicals in the body that cause cancers and auto-immune diseases. Free radicals also cause heart and neurological diseases as well as the aging process in general.
What are the effects of adolescence on neurobiological processes implicated in teenage drug use in South Africa?
Professor Alan Flisher passed away in 2010. He was a pioneer in the field of public mental health in South Africa. ‘The Alan J. Flisher Centre for Public Mental Health’ was officially launched in August 2010 in his memory. He undertook a
study of 2930 students from grades 8 and 11 at 39 different high schools in Cape Town. This study looked alcohol, cigarettes and dagga and overall prevalence rates for recent use was 31%, 27% and 7% respectively. 
In another South African study 308 students from four high schools were surveyed with a questionnaire and parental consent. The students were from grades 8 to 12 with an average age of 16 years. Of those who used substances 69% used alcohol, 10% smoked dagga and 5% smoked cigarettes and 46% were poly-users. South Africa has a high occurrence of risky alcohol use for men, women and even young people. It’s a major concern for public health risks as well as social problems like crime and violence in all communities. 
The conflicting evidence shows that the relationship between teenagers and drug use is more complex than we first thought
The world has changed and today people are successfully using dagga to overcome their alcohol and other serious addictions. This is a crucial point because studies show that alcoholism is decreasing due to the popularity of dagga among teens.  “Generation-Z” is changing the way teens do drugs, although there are still some worrying trends. We see this new research as a radiant reflection of a new style of positive parenting in today’s society. As parents and grandparents we must nurture our teens as many of us wish our own parents might have. We must encourage open-lines-of-communication so that young people may once again feel safe confiding in their parents.
There has not been nearly enough media attention highlighting the issue of alcohol versus Cannabis for recreational use. Alcohol is certainly in a class of its own but it is still the most dangerous drug known to mankind. It is the first choice in the long list of things that can make a person feel intoxicated or ‘high’. Cannabis offers a healthier euphoriant than whiskey or vodka and helps repair damage that alcohol imposes, especially on the liver. For example Cannabis is used to ease pain, stimulate appetite and improve moods. These are benefits that someone recovering from alcohol dependency would find very beneficial. For many, dagga provided an escape from the grip of their long-drawn-out battle with alcohol that started in their teens.
DISCLAIMER: Complementary medicine, in particular Cannabis Medicine and pharmacology are ever changing fields. The author and Editor has in so far as possible, taken every care to ensure that the information contained within the text is as accurate and as up-to-date as possible. Mushigoat Seed Company and Sista Vee Nohombile Bush do not endorse self-medicating any medicine or drug without consulting with a professional health care provider. We do not encourage or endorse under-age Cannabis smoking and we do not sell THC products to under-age minors. No liability will be accepted for any resulting damage, injury or loss to either person or property, whether direct or consequential and howsoever arising. All decisions regarding your health and that of your family should always be made while consulting with your Health Care Practitioner. For private consultations please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Citations for: Teenage drug use
 (George C. Patton, MD et al, September 2004) “Puberty and the Onset of Substance Use and Abuse.” Journal Pediatrics Volume 114 Issue 3 pages 300-306 PMCID: PMC1892192 PMID: 15342890
 (AD Meruelo et al, 15 May 2017) “Cannabis and Alcohol Use, and the Developing Brain.” Journal Behav Brain Res Volume 325 pages 44-50 PMID: 28223098
 Philip A May PhD et al, 2011) “Maternal Risk Factors for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders – Not As Simple as it Might Seem.” Journal Alcohol Research Health Volume 34 Issue 1 pages 15-26 PMCID: PMC3860552 PMID: 23580036 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23580036
 (Claire Gorey et al, 24 January 2019) “Age-related differences in the impact of cannabis use on the brain and cognition: a systematic review.” Journal European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience Volume 269 Issue 1 pages 37-58 PMCID: PMC6394430 PMID: 30680487 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30680487
 (Joanna Jacobus and Susan F. Tapert, 2014) “Effects of Cannabis on the Adolescent Brain.” Journal Curr Pharm Des Volume 20 Issue 13 pages 2186-2193 PMCID: PMC3930618 PMID: 23829363 2014
 (Schwartz RH et al, 1989) “Short-term memory impairment in cannabis-dependent adolescents.” American Journal of Dis Child Volume 143 pages 1214-1219
 (Teichner G et al, 2000) “The relationship of neuropsychological functioning to measures of substance use in an adolescent drug abusing sample.” International Journal of NeuroscienceVolume 104 pages 113–124
 (Wen Jiang, 2005) “Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects” Journal of Clinical Investigation Volume 115 Issue 11 PMCID: PMC1253627/PMID: 16224541 13 October 2005
 (Alan J. Flisher et al, February 2003) “Substance use by adolescents in Cape Town” Journal of Adolescent Health Volume 32 Issue 1 pages 58-65, Source Pubmed and South African Medical Research Council. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12507802/
 (Debrah Mohale and Kebogile E. Mokwena 22 July 2020) “Substance use amongst high school learners in the South of Johannesburg: Is this the new norm?” Journal SA Family Practice Volume 62 Issue 1 © 2020 The Author https://www.google.com/search?q=Substance+use+amongst+high+school+learners+in+the+South+of+Johannesburg%3A+Is+this+the+new+norm/
 (Dr Ty Schepis, 19 November 2020) “College-age kids and teens are drinking less alcohol – marijuana is a different story.” Published by Department of Psychology, Texas State University https://theconversation.com