Young people and marijuana

Marijuana is a popular drug of choice with young people which is mainly due to its easy availability and low cost. It can be grown at home or in outdoor locations which have been chosen for that purpose and is seen as less harmful than other recreational drugs.

Many young people consider using marijuana to be no worse than having a few drinks or a cigarette. In fact they often claim that it causes less harm than these two and should be legalised.

Find out more about legalising cannabis in the law and marijuana section.

A higher percentage of boys than girls use marijuana although this is minimal. Older teens are more likely to use it than younger teens.

Marijuana as a coping mechanism

Many young people use marijuana as a means of coping with certain pressures in their lives such as exams, relationships etc. They also use it as way of relieving boredom, frustration, anxiety or anger and as a means of escapism.

It can be seen as a way of dealing the ups and downs of growing up but there are other less harmful ways of doing so. Any problems the young person has must be faced and dealt with rather than ignored or run away from.

If a young person has been physically or sexually abused then there is an increased risk of them using marijuana and at an earlier age compared to other young people

Why do so many young people use marijuana?

There are several reasons for this which includes:

    • Peer pressure
    • Rebellion
    • Curiosity
    • Genetic predisposition
    • Environmental

Peer pressure

Peer pressure is one of the main reasons for trying marijuana. Many young people experiment with drugs in order to fit in with their peer group or because it is seen as a cool and daring thing to do.

Part of being a group means wearing the right clothes, having similar hairstyles and liking the same music. Another aspect is daring someone to do something which may be dangerous or different in order to be part of the group.

If the group smokes marijuana or uses other drugs then part of being that group means doing the same. There can be pressure to do so and many young people will try drugs rather than be excluded from the group.

This is a stage where they have a strong desire to belong and not stand out from the rest of the crowd.


Marijuana is often used as a form of rebellion against authority. Knowing that your parents, teachers or other authority figures disapprove of this makes it even more attractive.

This is not new: young people have been rebelling against authority over several decades and using drugs such as marijuana is one way of doing so.

This is a time when they are testing boundaries; exploring their identities and trying to assert themselves in a variety of ways. It is a time of raging hormones and other changes which can be confusing and difficult to deal with.

The young person is on the cusp of childhood and adulthood and is trying to adapt to the challenges that brings. Using marijuana is one way of coping with that.


Young people try drugs such as marijuana to see what they are like. They are at that stage where they want to be an adult and try adult things which include cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.

Genetic predisposition

Some people have what is called an ‘addictive personality’which means that they are vulnerable to the effects of substances such as alcohol and drugs.

If a member of their family has used marijuana then there is a strong chance that they will do the same.

There are people who are more likely to become addicted to marijuana than others due to the way their brains are wired. They may be more likely to develop anxiety or depression or use drugs such as marijuana as a way of dealing with stress.


If a young person grows up in a home where other people use drugs such as marijuana or their household is considered dysfunctional or chaotic then marijuana may be used as a form of escapism.

If they are brought up to see drug taking as normal and acceptable then there is a good chance that they will do the same.

Risk of addiction

What has been found is that if a young person smokes tobacco then there is a strong likelihood that they will use marijuana as well. The danger is if this leads to stronger substances such as heroin, crack or cocaine.

They do not have sufficient maturity to understand about the dangers of marijuana and the chance of it leading to stronger drugs such as heroin.

Young people often assume that they are immortal and that nothing will happen to them. They do not always consider the consequences of their actions and think that nothing will go wrong.

Addiction may not cross their minds or if it does is not be taken seriously.

Not every person who uses marijuana will become addicted but some people do so it is as well to be aware of this risk.

If you are the parent of a young person who you suspect has been using marijuana then what can you do?

Our treatment for marijuana addiction section contains information about dealing with this. Other options include talking to specialist drug agencies such as FRANK (

Another useful source is Connexions Direct, a website which contains information and advice for young people which includes drugs, e.g. marijuana.

Their website is

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