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Studies show that at the end of 2011, marijuana continued to be the most popular drug among teens. Marijuana use increased for the fourth year in a row after a decade of decline with about 7% of high school seniors reporting that they smoked daily. This is the highest rate seen in 30 years and can be attributable to the general idea that teenagers have that marijuana isn’t a dangerous drug.

However, recent research conducted in New Zealand showed that teens that started smoking marijuana before age 18 and were diagnosed as being addicted to cannabis by age 38 experienced an IQ drop in early adulthood. While marijuana users who began smoking after age 18 didn’t show much of a decline in IQ even if they were heavy users.

“The effect of cannabis on IQ is really confined to adolescent users,” says lead author Madeline Meier, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University. “Our hypothesis is that we see this IQ decline in adolescence because the adolescent brain is still developing and if you introduce cannabis, it might interrupt these critical developmental processes.”

Other negative effects resulting from marijuana usage include problems with complex task performance, delusional behavior such as hearing or seeing things not there and it is also associated with anxiety and depression. Furthermore, exposure to lung and throat irritants might lead to respiratory injury. All of these issues combined can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle and cause teens to forego the pursuit of athletic, academic and other life goals because of this irresponsible behavior.

Cementing strong values at home is important to preventing adolescents from using and abusing this substance. Open communication is extremely important during these highly influential years, as peer pressure and lack of attention at home are major reasons why teens get involved in this behavior. To help with the discussion of drug and alcohol use with their teens, many parents are turning to online classes. High quality online drug and alcohol awareness classes are now easily available from any web-based device in your home. Parents can enroll their teens in an 8 hour online drug class from an Ipad, laptop or personal computer. There is nothing to download or print out, so the teen can sit comfortably anywhere in the house to take the course. Adults can also participate with their teen by sitting through the class with them to discuss any issues that come up.  Participants can drop in and out of the class whenever it’s convenient, so they can take it whenever they have some downtime.

Look for a class that is designed by a licensed and practicing therapist and specialist in the field. The course will teach your teen all about the different types of drugs they will hear about or potentially be exposed to on the street, and how these drugs negatively affect mental and physical health in the short and long-term. They will learn all about the risks and repercussions involved with drug and alcohol use, enough information to understand exactly why they should not even try what they think is a benign drug like marijuana.

Online classes are an easy, convenient and low-cost way to educate adolescents on the dangers of drug use. As parents, we shouldn’t ignore the reality that our kids will be exposed to marijuana and alcohol at some point during their high school career. Take the time now to arm your child with the information he needs to overcome the peer pressure.