Marijuana Legalization: A Catalyst for Substance Abuse Disorders

A rehabilitation center for adolescents, age 12-21, located in Denver Colorado, reports 95% of their admissions are for marijuana use. Due to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado this year, the center has had to double its staff, bracing for an increase in referrals. While you must be 21 or older to purchase the recreational drug, officials are concerned that it will fall more easily into the hands of teens.


Marijuana, or cannabis, is a gateway drug, which means its addictive nature can lead users down a path to other drugs like cocaine and heroin. Parents and guardians should be concerned about the ease of availability teens may now have to the drug. It is important to educate our youth about the addiction risk associated with smoking marijuana.

According to the American Medical Association, cannabis is the most common illicit drug involved in drugged driving, especially among drivers aged 21 and younger. states that marijuana impairs judgment and motor coordination and more than doubles a driver’s risk of an accident.

Frequent use of marijuana can have short and longer-term affects in addition to opening the doors to other drug use:

  • Increased heart rate that can last up to 3 hours
  • Temporary psychotic reactions involving hallucinations and paranoia
  • Mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and personality disturbances

The legalization of marijuana in Colorado, and potentially other states, will cause a cycle of increased use, which in turn increases the risk of addiction. Through education, communication and awareness, parents and professionals can help teens to understand the risks involved in marijuana use, abuse and addiction.

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