Marijuana Use in Teens: Typical Risk-taking or Concerning Use?

As we work through the month of September, Legacy continues to recognize National Recovery Month.

By Dominique Gonzalez, Addiction Services Social Worker & Kara Kai Kirton, Manager of Ancillary Social Services


While determining one’s own readiness for recovery from substance use can be daunting this September for National Recovery Month, determining if your teenager is in need of recovery services can prove even more difficult. Marijuana is commonly referred to as a “gateway drug” and many parents or guardians fear what awaits their teens if they cross that gateway. The teen years are widely known as a time of differentiation of self and experimentation, but some use crosses the blurry line from typical experimentation into atypical use, and sometimes goes even farther into a substance use disorder. The challenge faced by many parents or guardians in this changing landscape of marijuana use and legalization is knowing when or if a teen needs professional help to stop using marijuana regardless of legality.

Most people will be reassured to learn that the majority of those who use marijuana do not develop detrimental patterns of use, however, many parents or guardians of teens experience rational concern if they discover their teen is engaging in cannabis use1. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, research has shown that frequency of use and the amount of marijuana being used affect the likelihood that a teen may experience long-term impact on their brain development2. Additionally, those who begin using marijuana at an earlier age are more at risk of experiencing impacts on their brain development1. In determining the level of intervention necessary, a parent/guardian could perform an internet search of terms like “marijuana concentrate devices” and look for a beginner’s guide to learn more about levels of THC concentrate which might be used in a specific device found in their teen’s belongings. Alternatively, the parent/guardian can consult with substance recovery professionals to assess the teen’s substance use and provide intervention suggestions with a 3rd-party.

Regardless of what a parent or guardian chooses to do upon discovering their teen is engaging in substance use, reducing shame, stigma, and creating a space for any questions about substance use can foster emotional safety among teens engaging in potentially risky behaviors and increase the likelihood that the teen will inform their parent/guardian if they believe substance use is becoming a difficulty in their life.

If you have questions about your teen’s or your substance use, reach out to your family’s Legacy Community Health provider for guidance and a connection to our Recovery-focused Social Workers. Call (832) 548-5000 to schedule an appointment.


1 NIDA. “Is marijuana a gateway drug?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 8 Apr. 2020, Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.
2 NIDA. “What are marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain?.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 8 Apr. 2020, Accessed 28 Aug. 2020.