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Bob Livingstone, LCSWBob Livingstone, LCSW
Healing Emotional Pain and Loss

Why do Teenagers Smoke so much Marijuana? Part One

Bob Livingstone, LCSW Updated: Jun 11th 2012

According to a recent report by The Partnership at, more teens are smoking marijuana with nearly 1 in 10 smoking at least 20 or more times a month, according to a new survey of young people.

depressed teenA Huffington Post blog by Jennifer C. Kerr states, "The findings on marijuana track closely with those in a recent University of Michigan study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. That study also found marijuana use rising among teens the past few years, reversing a long decline in the previous decade."

It is my experience of being a psychotherapist working with teens that these young people are impulsive in their weed smoking. They often get caught by the very adults they are defying. At times the kids take huge risks and will indulge when it is against their best interests; before job interviews, football games, and exams. There is thoughtlessness about this need to get high.

So more teens smoke and they get high almost every day. Why is marijuana usage up all of a sudden? Here are some possible reasons for this phenomenon:

  • Teens have graduated from video games to weed. The escape from boredom and the instant gratification that is derived from video games is seriously enhanced by intense pot smoking.
  • According to The Science of Marijuana by Leslie I. Iverson, 10 percent of pot users are addicted to pot and between 10 to 30% of regular users will develop dependency. It is not unusual for teens who are under scrutiny for past pot use to take huge risks in lighting up. Placing their futures in jeopardy directly conflicts with the high intelligence of many of these kids. These risks lead to increased trouble with their parents, school officials and perhaps the juvenile justice system.
  • Peer pressure plays a major role in increased pot use. Weekend parties that include weed, alcohol and other mind altering substances are in full effect in America communities. Teens want to be accepted by the popular kids and pot is now viewed as an essential element of popularity.
  • Music videos and popular music itself glorifies marijuana smoking, the drinking of alcohol and the worship of materialism. Teens are highly influenced by these mediums and desire to live lifestyles depicted in these trendy videos.
  • Many teenagers have difficulty dealing with and processing stress. Parents working sixty hour weeks to make ends meet have no time to teach their kids how to deal with stress. Adults also have their own stress to deal with. Children are not taught how to deal with stress in structures outside the family either. Teenagers are also at a developmental stage of seeking autonomy and independence. Therefore they are unlikely to seek out their parents guidance when they are feeling stressed. There are fewer college slots available and the cost for secondary education continues to climb. Teens see their older peers saddled with huge college loan debts. There are also fewer and less well paying jobs to be had when graduating from college. When teens look to their future, they experience lots of anxiety and lack the tools for dealing with this angst. They have learned to deal with conflicting feelings through electronic distractions (texting, video games, Facebook). Weed is another means of escaping from this pressure without really ever looking at it.
  • The medical marijuana movement has given teens a rational for why it is ok to smoke a ton of dope. There is plenty of research that speaks to the benefits of medical marijuana. Teens tend to distort this information for their benefit; stating that there is nothing wrong with smoking weed-matter of fact it is a healing herb. The effects of regular pot use include: lethargy, lack of interest in much of anything and difficulty concentrating. They also come to believe that weed is the only thing that will relax them in social situations and relieve them from their parent's demands. They don't learn to differentiate between normal day to day stress and a crisis. Everyday pot use prevents them from learning to tolerate any level of stress, boredom or discomfort.
  • There is an emptiness that is pervasive in these kid's lives. There are many intelligent kids who are smoking large amounts of marijuana, but they seem to lack access to the part of their brain that is connected to authentic joy or reflective thought. I wonder if abusing weed has wounded that part of the developing brain or if the pot somehow prevents kids from going to a self-soothing place.

Keep your eyes open for part two of this series: How Parents can deal with this Increase in Marijuana Usage.


Bob Livingstone, LCSWBob Livingstone, LCSW, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for twenty-two years. He works with adults, teenagers and children who have experienced traumas such as family violence, neglect and divorce. He works with men around anger issues and with adults in recovery from child abuse. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books: Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager's Healing Journey Through Sandtray Therapy and Body Mind Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain Through Exercise and his newly released book Unchain the Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist. For more information visit

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