Marijuana is made of dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. A mind-altering chemical called THC is found in the Cannabis plant. 

Aside from alcohol and tobacco, marijuana is the mostly commonly used addictive drug. While marijuana has been legalized in some states to varying degrees, it is not legal in Georgia for recreational use.

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Many people believe marijuana really isn’t that bad. Maybe you’ve heard it can be used as medicine. It seems like a lot of people use marijuana. You’re probably wondering why some states would legalize it if it was really so terrible. But just like alcohol, marijuana can be very dangerous, especially for younger people. This page will help you understand the risks that come with marijuana use and how you can avoid this addictive drug. 

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a psychoactive drug that comes from a plant. It can be smoked, vaporized, or eaten. Marijuana contains the chemical THC, which is found in resin produced by the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant. This plant also contains over 500 other chemicals. 

Marijuana is an addictive drug, meaning you may not be able to stop once you start. It’s especially addictive to kids and teens. In fact, the risk of developing a marijuana use disorder is greater in those who use marijuana at younger ages. 20% of people who start using marijuana between the ages of 12-17 will develop marijuana use disorder compared to 11% of people between the ages of 18-25

The Risks of Marijuana

You know drugs affect you, but do you know how? Many young people believe that legalizing marijuana means that it’s safe to use, no matter the age. That simply isn’t true. And research tells us that when teens and young adults believe there is little risk in using marijuana, rates of use increase. 

The more someone uses marijuana, the worse the effects. The following mental and physical effects should convince you how dangerous marijuana can be and how it can negatively impact a person’s life.

Effects of Marijuana on the Brain

Marijuana use seriously impacts every area of your brain, making it difficult to produce clear thoughts, keep on task, and manage normal situations. 

Statistics show that teens who use marijuana are more likely to quit high school and not get a college degree. 

Did you know these risks are dramatically increased when you start using marijuana before you’re 18? Marijuana can have permanent effects on the developing brain when use begins during adolescence. Heavy and regular use only magnifies those effects.

Hover over each card to learn how marijuana damages your brain:

Depression & Anxiety

Depression & Anxiety

Marijuana use increases your risk of mental health issues. Studies have found that marijuana can be responsible for a wide range of mental health conditions, specifically depression and social anxiety. It can cause you to lose motivation and feel like your life is empty.

Cognitive Impairment

Cognitive Impairment

Long-term cannabis users has been shown to have less neural fibers and smaller hippocampi (the region of the brain responsible for learning and memory). Studies have shown long-term cannabis users have lower IQs and suffer from memory impairment, and have issues focusing, learning, and processing information. When used during adolescence, these effects may be permanent.



Approximately 3 in 10 people marijuana users develop marijuana use disorder, or marijuana addiction. This means you can't stop using marijuana, even when you try to stop.

The risk of developing marijuana use disorder is stronger in people who start using marijuana during youth or adolescence and those who use marijuana more frequently.

Paranoia & Psychosis

Paranoia & Psychosis

Marijuana use also makes people more likely to develop temporary psychosis and lifetime mental disorders like schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a condition where people hallucinate and can be severely paranoid. Marijuana is especially dangerous for youth because the risk of developing schizophrenia increases if marijuana use starts at an earlier age.  
Physical Side Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana doesn’t just harm your brain. Did you know that marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke does? Smoking marijuana leads to an increased rate of lung infections and illnesses.

Marijuana causes the heart to beat faster and increases your blood pressure immediately after use. Marijuana use could also lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and other vascular diseases.

It can also cause severe nausea and vomiting. Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition caused by long-term marijuana use. People who have CHS experience regular and severe episodes of nausea, vomiting, dehydration and abdominal pain, resulting in frequent visits to the emergency department. 

Common Side Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana Use Disorder

Extensive use of marijuana can lead to marijuana use disorder. When a person uses a lot of marijuana frequently, they are at risk to develop this disorder. That means the person is unable to stop using marijuana even if they want to. This addiction may cause social and health problems, but they simply cannot stop. A person who uses marijuana is much more likely to develop this disorder.  

When a person suffers from marijuana use disorder, they are unable to quit even when they try.

They crave marijuana all the time. They take more marijuana than they meant to. They give up activities and hobbies that were once important to them. They withdraw from family and friends. They use marijuana in high-risk and unsafe situations. They suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

That doesn’t sound too great, does it? The best way to keep from getting addicted is to never try marijuana in the first place.

Marijuana Use in Youth Data

Middle School Students (6th - 8th grade)

100% of 6th graders in McIntosh County had not used marijuana in the past 30 days. However, 10% of 8th graders had used marijuana in the past 30 days, compared to only 5% of students in Georgia overall.

Source: Georgia Student Health Survey, 2020

High School Students (9th - 12th grade)

Marijuana use in McIntosh County high school students is higher than the state average and increases with each grade level. By senior year, 23% of students had used marijuana in the past 30 days. However, it’s important to note that most students are not using marijuana.

Source: Georgia Student Health Survey, 2020

Myths vs Facts

Chronic marijuana use leads to addiction. Research indicates that about 9%–or 1 in 11–people that use marijuana will become addicted. That number increases to 20% if someone starts using marijuana in their teen years.

Fact: The THC in marijuana can impair judgment and increase susceptibility to mental problems. It can cause depression and anxiety. If you already have those problems, marijuana can make them worse.

Fact: You know smoking marijuana is bad for you. Being in the same room as others smoking marijuana isn’t great either. Second hand smoke from marijuana contains the same toxins and carcinogens as tobacco.   

Fact: Research shows that marijuana use can damage the parts of your brain that control learning and memory. Students who regularly use marijuana are likely to have lower IQ scores and higher dropout rates.

Fact: Studies have shown that the more THC in a person’s system, the lower their driving ability. Marijuana impairs judgment, reaction time, and motor coordination. Plus, the chance of being involved in an accident doubles with marijuana use.  Over 20% of fatal car accidents involved a driver impaired by marijuana use. 

Some teens think marijuana is safe because it is used for medical purposes. Marijuana prescribed for a medical reason is called “medical marijuana.” Laws for medical marijuana are rapidly changing and vary widely from state to state. There is very limited research that supports the use of medical marijuana in children or teens for most conditions. In most states that allow medical marijuana, the marijuana is unregulated and therefore is not checked for ingredients, purity, strength or safety. There is no evidence that medical marijuana is any safer than other marijuana.

Prevention Tips for Youth

Does using marijuana sound better than graduating high school? Would you rather have a good time hanging out with your friends or stay at home feeling anxious and paranoid? Probably not. But how can you keep marijuana from negatively impacting your life?

Sometimes, saying no can feel uncomfortable. We’ve got some tips to help you avoid marijuana and keep your life on track. A casual response can sometimes be the best way. 

Here are some ways to say no:

Prevention Tips for Parents

Raising kids can be scary. There are so many negative influences coming at them everyday, including drugs. How can you keep your kids away from marijuana? 

Tip #1

Be aware that there are several different names for marijuana. Some of those nicknames include weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja, Mary Jane, and many others. If you hear your child using these names, it’s important to talk to them about marijuana. 

Tip #2

Be a good role model. Research has shown that kids who have parents that use drugs are more likely to use drugs themselves. Regardless of whether a young person uses marijuana “to feel good” or “to feel better,” environment often shapes their beliefs and attitudes. 

Tip #3

Have an open dialogue with your child about the dangers of using marijuana. This is not a one-time conversation.

Tip #4

Explain the risks and dangers of marijuana use. Remind your child that marijuana use can be mentally and  physically dangerous. It can also impair judgment when driving and put others in danger.

Warning Signs of Marijuana Use

Even if you’ve tried to talk to someone you love about marijuana use and how to avoid drugs, sometimes the message doesn’t always get through. In that case, it’s important to know what marijuana use looks like. These are some common signs of marijuana use:

Test Your Knowledge


Test Your Knowledge - Marijuana

1 / 10

True or False? Using marijuana can increase your susceptibility for mental problems.

2 / 10

 Aside from alcohol and tobacco, what is the most commonly used addictive drug?

3 / 10

 Is it safe to be around second hand marijuana smoke?

4 / 10

True or False? THC is a mind-altering chemical.

5 / 10

In what ways can marijuana use affect academic performance? Check all that apply.

6 / 10

True or False? The cannabis plant contains over 500 chemicals.

7 / 10

True or False: Marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke does.

8 / 10

Which of the following are long-term side effects of marijuana use?

9 / 10

True or False? It is safe to drive after smoking marijuana.

10 / 10

What are some other names marijuana by which marijuana is commonly called? Check all that apply.

Your score is


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Resources for Parents

Resources for parents to help prevent underage substance abuse, including conversation guides, fact sheets, online resources, and more!

Resources for Youth

Resources for youth to help learn the risks and prevent substance abuse, including apps, games, websites, media, and more!

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