Let’s Talk Pot! (and the Internet)

By: Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.

Marijuana is being shamelessly marketed to the public with misleading information. And they’re buying it, literally and figuratively. Keep in mind that kids as young as elementary school are getting their information about pot from inaccurate Internet sources. Furthermore, kids are using text and social media to gain access to drugs and alcohol.


Here are some “digestible” bullet points of marijuana facts that you should take seriously because you’re a parent, and growing people from scratch gives you a responsibility to have an informed perspective and set limits within your home:

  • Marijuana use is UP and smokers are starting younger.
    National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of Marijuana/Hashish for Ages 12 and Older, Ages 12 to 17, Ages 18 to 25, and Ages 26 or Older; 2013 (in percent).



  • Today’s more potent pot only slightly resembles the pot from the 1970’s due to advanced growing technology.
    • The average marijuana today contains 10% THC (the active ingredient that gets you high) versus 1% THC.
    • That means old research (and there wasn’t much of it) barely applies to today’s strains.
  • Marijuana is physiologically and psychologically addicting.
    • Cannabinoids increase dopamine in the mesolimbic pathway circuits and the nucleus accumbens, the areas of the brain that underlie the reinforcing effects of ALL drugs of abuse.
    • There is clear and consistent evidence of tolerance, withdrawal, and craving. Marijuana withdrawal can last as long as two weeks, leaving the smoker highly susceptible for mood instability and relapse.
    • There is a high concentration of cannabinoid brain receptors in many different areas of the brain. As a result, marijuana produces effects that might qualify it as a hallucinogenic, sedative, or analgesic.
  • Marijuana does have legitimate applications for particular medical conditions. (This blog is neither killer weed propaganda nor a series of quotes from High Times. Black and white thinking is the enemy to intelligent discourse. Staying real here.)
    • Studies have noted the positive feeding effects (perceptions of hunger and euphoria) of smoked marijuana compared to placebo for HIV-associated nausea, anorexia, and wasting (Bedi et al. 2005; Haney et al. 2007; Lutge et. al. 2013).
    • Cannabinoids have been found more effective than placebo for pain. The most effect was found for chronic neuropathic pain related to HIV, multiple sclerosis, and peripheral neuropathy as opposed to acute pain (Lynch et al. 2011; Ware et al 2010).
  • Marijuana obscures psychiatric presentation and generally makes mental illnesses worse rather than better.
    • Anxiety Disorders: Self-medicating with pot leads to cyclic withdrawal and heightened anxiety that is resistant to traditional therapies. Marijuana lowers GABA, natures calming neurotransmitter.
    • Mood Disorders & ADHD: Marijuana dysregulates serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters related to mood and attention disorders. As a result chronic marijuana use often exacerbates and intensifies psychological symptoms.
    • Schizophrenia: The use of marijuana increases the chances of developing schizophrenia by 600% for heavy smokers, 400% for regular smokers, and 200% for any smoking (gene-environment interaction COMT gene & cannabis)(Andréasson et al. 1987; Stefanis et al. 2013)! This is perhaps the most disturbing research outcome I have read in my twenty-year career. And nobody is talking about it!

  • You can’t be sure all you’re smoking is marijuana.
    • Marijuana is often laced with more addictive drugs like cocaine, heroin, and PCP to keep buyers buying.
    • Although adulteration if far less of a risk for marijuana than other drugs, the heavier the drug the higher its price. As a result, adulterants like lead, silicone, Mountain dew, and Windex have been commonly discovered in pot samples.
    • Marijuana is often treated with pesticides to optimize profitable quantities.
  • Chronic cannabis use is particularly harmful to the developing brain (until 23 years old), because it decreases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
    • BDNF regulates the genesis, differentiation, survival, and repair of neurons and modulates neuroplasticity and adaptive processes underlying learning and memory. In other words, BDNF is responsible for building and repairing brain cells.
    • Marijuana use in adolescence may further compound an already abnormally developing brain by altering BDNF levels, thus contributing to the development of some neuropsychiatric disorders (like schizophrenia) (D’Souza et al. 2009; Zammit 2003).
    • Research hasn’t concluded that pot “causes” schizophrenia, but it does appear to exacerbate the potential for this severe mental illness among adolescents and young adults. Clinically we have found that if we can get our client clean from marijuana after their first psychotic symptoms, they have a chance to actually recover than submit to a devastatingly progressive course.
  • Chronic marijuana use has been found to have various negative health effects, including:
    • a suppressant effect on immune system (long-term unknown);
    • the reproductive systems of men and women are adversely affected (lower testosterone & lower sperm count in males and lower LH secretion in females), but there is no evidence of a change in fertility;
    • no identified increase in birth defects, but may contribute to low birth rate and less maternal milk production;
    • and behavioral syndromes including lower GPA, more truancy, higher drop out rate, and more delinquency. Of course clinicians are aware that marijuana doesn’t necessarily cause these issues, but is often a contributor. A more influential contributor is the teen’s commitment to affiliating with a deviant subculture (sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll – do we have a cure for that?).
  • Starting young and smoking can make you dumber.
    • Chronic marijuana smokers younger than 18 years old demonstrate an average IQ decline of 8 points and other signs of impaired mental functioning by age 38 years (Meier 2012).
  • BIG tobacco money is investing in the marijuana industry, so expect the “mom and pop” head shops to go bankrupt while even more slick marketing comes on the scene. There’s big money to be made at the expense of the public’s health…again (remember tobacco?). Expect more skyrocketing healthcare costs. And when they’re done addicting our needy adult population, they’ll move on to children in countries without child protective legislation (ick).
    • There’s not a lot of money flowing to marijuana research relative to marketing the marijuana product. If you want to stay informed, don’t forget to attend to that quality information needle in the haystack. Just because your read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Check sources to determine validity.

In conclusion, marijuana is an extremely controversial topic. I’m not weighing in on my opinions about legalization for medicinal or recreational use for adults. That is up to each individual upon becoming accurately informed. Since you guys are actively parenting though, I wanted to share the dangers of marijuana on the young, developing brain. As content creator of GKIS, I feel an obligation to let you know that your efforts toward filtering and monitoring screen media must cast a wide net to keep your kids safe from a variety of dangers out there.

Did any of this information surprise you? Or did you read anything that you’d love to share with another parent? Please take a moment and share this article on your FaceBook page or forward the link on.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetYourKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

© 2015 Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission. Original article: Your Kid On Pot: The Truth About Marijuana

Works Cited

Andréasson, Sven, Ann Engström, Peter Allebeck, and Ulf Rydberg. “CANNABIS AND SCHIZOPHRENIA A Longitudinal Study of Swedish Conscripts.” The Lancet 330.8574 (1987): 1483-486. Web.

Bedi, Gillinder, Richard W. Foltin, Erik W. Gunderson, Judith Rabkin, Carl L. Hart, Sandra D. Comer, Suzanne K. Vosburg, and Margaret Haney. “Efficacy and Tolerability of High-dose Dronabinol Maintenance in HIV-positive Marijuana Smokers: A Controlled Laboratory Study.” Psychopharmacology 212.4 (2010): 675-86. Web.

D’Souza, Deepak Cyril, Brian Pittman, Edward Perry, and Arthur Simen. “Preliminary Evidence of Cannabinoid Effects on Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Levels in Humans.” Psychopharmacology 202.4 (2009): 569-78. Web.

Haney M, Gunderson EW, Rabkin J, Hart CL, Vosburg SK, Comer SD, Foltin RW. “Dronabinol and Marijuana in HIV-Positive Marijuana Smokers: Caloric Intake, Mood and Sleep.” JAIDS 45 (2007): 545–554. [PubMed]

Lutge, Elizabeth E, Andy Gray, and Nandi Siegfied. “The Medical Use of Cannabis For Reducing Morbidity and Mortality in Patients With HIV/AIDS.” Database of Systematic Reviews (2013):4. Web. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD005175.pub3/abstract

Lynch, Mary E., and Fiona Campbell. “Cannabinoids for Treatment of Chronic Non-cancer Pain; a Systematic Review of Randomized Trials.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 72.5 (2011): 735-44. Web.

“Marijuana.” Marijuana. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.

Meier, M. H., A. Caspi, A. Ambler, H. Harrington, R. Houts, R. S. E. Keefe, K. Mcdonald, A. Ward, R. Poulton, and T. E. Moffitt. “Persistent Cannabis Users Show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Midlife.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109.40 (2012): E2657-2664. Web.

Stefanis, N. C., M. Dragovic, B. D. Power, A. Jablensky, D. Castle, and V. A. Morgan. “Age at Initiation of Cannabis Use Predicts Age at Onset of Psychosis: The 7- to 8-Year Trend.” Schizophrenia Bulletin 39.2 (2013): 251-54. Web. http://schizophreniabulletin.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/01/10/schbul.sbs188.abstra ct

Ware, M. A., T. Wang, S. Shapiro, A. Robinson, T. Ducruet, T. Huynh, A. Gamsa, G. J. Bennett, and J.-P. Collet. “Smoked Cannabis for Chronic Neuropathic Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 182.14 (2010): E694-701. Web.

Zammit, S. “Self Reported Cannabis Use as a Risk Factor for Schizophrenia in Swedish Conscripts of 1969: Historical Cohort Study.” Bmj 325.7374 (2002): 1199. Web. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.

Tracy Bennett, PhD.

Tracy Bennett, PhD.

Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI AdjunctFaculty at GetKidsInternetSafe
Dr. Bennett is a grateful and happy mother of three, a clinical psychologist, and a university professor at CSUCI. Upon successfully managing Internet safety issues in her practice, she created www.GetKidsInternetSafe.com. Her passion is working with parents and kids to build a loving and trusting alliance and changing the world for the better.
Tracy Bennett, PhD.

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