Marijuana Use in Teens and Young Adults

image of bus ad marijuana youth

Teens and young adults may view marijuana (cannabis) use as harmless. Now that marijuana products are legal, be aware of the potential developmental, behavioral, psychological, and cognitive risks associated with frequent marijuana use. These risks are more likely to impact teens and young adults because their brains are still developing. 

Below is a short compilation of research studies and resources.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Marijuana and Public Health - Teens

Studies showing that frequent marijuana use can permanently harm brain development and function in adolescents

Chronic cannabis use may change brain structure and function in both adults and teens. This study provides information about the ways cannabis can alter brains: Batalla A, Bhattacharyya S, Yücel M, Fusar-Poli P, Crippa JA, Nogué S, Torrens M, Pujol J, Farré M, Martin-Santos R. Structural and functional imaging studies in chronic cannabis users: a systematic review of adolescent and adult findings. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e55821.

Teens who use marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis often show deteriorated neurocognitive performance, brain development, and diminished brain functioning. This study outlines these effects: Jacobus, J., & Tapert, S. F. (2014). Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain. Current pharmaceutical design, 20(13), 2186–2193. Retrieved from on 2023, July 14.

This study outlines the effects of cannabis use on human behavior, cognition, motivation, and psychosis: Volkow ND, Swanson JM, Evins AE, DeLisi LE, Meier MH, Gonzalez R, Bloomfield MA, Curran HV, Baler R. Effects of Cannabis Use on Human Behavior, Including Cognition, Motivation, and Psychosis: A Review. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;73(3):292-7.

Drug facts about marijuana

The CDC has a comprehensive overview of what is currently known about the health effects of marijuana use in teens: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021, September 8. What We Know About Marijuana Health Effects – Teens. Marijuana and Public Health. Retrieved from on 2023, August 15.

 The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides drug facts and research on cannabis: NIDA. 2019, December 24. Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts. Retrieved from on 2023, July 14.

Other important findings

This study describes the prevalence of cannabis use among U.S. adolescents using a cross-sectional study: Sultan RS, Zhang AW, Olfson M, Kwizera MH, Levin FR. 2023, May 3. Nondisordered Cannabis Use Among US Adolescents. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(5):e2311294. Retrieved from on 2023, July 14.

There is evidence that marijuana use at a young age increases the risk of developing cannabis use disorder. This study found that starting to use cannabis in your early teens strongly relates to increased risk for becoming abusive of or dependent on substances: Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: Association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247.