10 Questions Adolescents Have About Marijuana

Addiction researchers answer teens' questions about pot.

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently offered adolescents the first ever "Drug Facts Chat Day." Students from high schools and middle schools across the country submitted anonymous questions online—about alcohol, the brain, addiction and everything in between—to NIDA scientists, including some of the nation's top experts in substance abuse. The scientists then responded with personalized, nonjudgmental answers. Below is a sample of the inquiries that relate specifically to marijuana. All the questions and answers below are unedited.

Among the scientists were Wilson Compton, director of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research; Nancy Pilotte, psychologist and expert in the neuroendocrine aspects of drug abuse; Marsha Lopez, an epidemiologist at NIDA's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse who has expertise in behavioral pharmacology, drug epidemiology, and co-occurring psychiatric conditions as they relate to drug use; David Shurtleff, director of NIDA's Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research; Kevin Conway, deputy director of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research; Joni Rutter, who manages NIDA's programs related to human genetics research; Cora Lee Wetherington, NIDA's coordinator for research aimed at promoting the study of women and sex and gender differences into all areas of drug abuse; Petra Jacobs, a psychiatrist and a recognized expert in the field of substance abuse prevention and treatment; and Joe Frascella, director of Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research at NIDA. —Compiled by Sarah Baldauf

10 Questions Adolescents have about Marijuana:

Samantha - Marlington High School - Why is Marijuana a gateway drug?

Wilson Compton - Your question about marijuana as a "gateway" drug has been debated a lot. The term "gateway" is the idea that an early drug leads to other drugs later in life. marijuana, tobacco and alcohol are generally the first drugs used.Scientifically, the jury is still out. But when we look at people who abuse illegal drugs, they tend to have also used marijuana and nicotine and alcohol. Still, research has shown that it is not true that most marijuana users go on to use other drugs. In and of itself, though, marijuana can pose significant health risks, including the risk of addiction. Check out http://www.marijuana-info.org for more information. I hope you find this information helpful. Sara - Briarcliff - does marijuana cause lung cancer?

Nancy Pilotte - Great question. Although we know that smoking tobacco is a major cause of lung cancer, we do not have as definitive an answer for marijuana. When you smoke cigarettes, you get a lot of nicotine, but you also ingest a lot of other chemicals that are responsible for the damage to the delicate lining of your lungs. Similarly, when you smoke marijuana, you ingest a lot of other chemicals that you don't think about that can similarly irritate your lungs. It normally takes a long time to develop lung cancer from cigarettes; we do not have the long-term data from smoking marijuana yet, but we think it is reasonable to expect that it will have similar effects. For more information about marijuana, go to http://www.marijuana-info.org a - asd - Have most teens used marijuana in their life?

Marsha Lopez - Although it may seem that everyone is doing it, it is probably way fewer that you guess. In a national school survey last year, about 15% of 8th graders, 32% of 10th graders, and 42% of 12th graders reported having used marijuana in their lifetime. Your MOM - behind you - Did you know you cant get addicted to marijuana.

David Shurtleff - In fact, marijuana can be addictive and can lead to compulsive use—individuals who are addicted abuse the drug even though it often interferes with family, school, work, and recreational activities. Marijuana can also produce "withdrawal" symptoms when trying to quit, such as difficulty sleeping and anxiety.You can find out more at: http://www.drugabuse.gov/ResearchReports/Marijuana/default.html