Why Do Young People Use Marijuana?

Teen With Marijuana Joint
Peer Pressure Is a Key Factor. © Getty Images

Question: Why Do Young People Use Marijuana?

Answer: Peer pressure is probably the most common reason that children and younger teens begin smoking marijuana. That peer group, however, is not limited to their friends at school, but also to members of their own families.

When they see older members of their family using marijuana, that can be a big influence.

Teens Influenced by the Attitude of Others

Whether or not the people closest to them—peers and other family members—use marijuana is not the only factor influencing adolescents to use the drug.

Their friends and family's attitude toward using can also be an influence.

One study found that teens who have friends and family members who do not see the harm in using marijuana, they are more likely to adopt that same attitude toward the drug and are also more likely to being using marijuana themselves.

Smoking Because It's Cool, Solves Problems

Teens may also think it's "cool" to use marijuana because they hear songs about it and see it on television or in movies. Other teens may turn to marijuana use as an escape from their problems at home, school or socially.

Some teens may feel they need marijuana and other drugs to help them escape from problems at home, at school, or with friends.

Sending the Wrong Message to Kids

As medical marijuana has become legal in more states and recreational marijuana use has been legalized in some states, more teens are deciding to smoke weed because fewer of them believe it is harmful, compared to a few years ago.

Just because its use is legal for adults to use in some states, doesn't mean it's safe for children and teens to use. No states have legalized marijuana for children.

And just because it's publicized on t-shirts and ball caps and it's a popular subject in songs and videos, doesn't mean everyone is smoking marijuana.

The majority of teens do not smoke weed.

Other Reasons Teens Smoke Weed

Research shows that adolescents tend to become involved in substance abuse because of stress, boredom and too much money. Kids who report they are often bored, who are under stress at home or school, and who have more money than they need, tend to become involved in substance abuse.

The type of neighborhood that a teen lives in can be an influence on whether or not they start smoking marijuana. Researchers found that teens in neighborhoods where open drugs sales are taking place on the street are less likely to have a negative view of smoking pot.

Teens Girls More Vulnerable?

There is also some research that indicates that teen girls are more vulnerable to substance abuse because they are more likely to self-medicate to help them deal with their problems.

Studies have found that teen girls are more likely to see the "benefits" of using drugs and alcohol and they may be more likely to be influenced by their friends than teen boys are.

Availability Is a Key to Underage Use

Availability is also a factor. Whether it's marijuana, alcohol, inhalants, or other drugs, if it is readily available, teens are more likely to try it, compared with teens who say drugs are difficult to obtain.

Unfortunately for a growing number of today's teens, availability of marijuana included being able to find it laying around in their own homes, as more states make it legal for medical and recreational use.

The same is true for other drugs and substances too, not just marijuana. Availability is a factor in whether or not adolescents being to use prescription drugs, tobacco, and even inhalants.

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National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." DrugFacts Updated January 2014

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Want to Know More?- Some FAQs about Marijuana." Marijuana: Facts for Teens Updated October 2013

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." Research Report Series Updated July 2012

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Marijuana." Drug Guide. Accessed April 2014.

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