In Connecticut, 26 percent of teens say they smoke marijuana, according to the 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention youth survey.
That percentage is slightly higher than the national average of 23 percent, according to the survey.
In addition, 7 percent of those teens said that they tried pot before the age of 13, compared to 8.6 percent nationally.
According to a 2013 study by Frontiers in Psychiatry, regular marijuana use – once or more than once a week – actually changes the structure of the teenage brain, especially in areas dealing with memory and problem solving. The study said that high rates of marijuana use in teens might negatively impact their performance in school.
Dr. J Craig Allen, medical director of the Rushford Center in Middletown, said that smoking marijuana can cause long-lasting effects on a smoker’s life.
“It is an potentially dangerous drug. These are facts that not anybody knows,” he said. “There is an clear association between cannabis use under age 21 and an lifelong IQ drop up to 8 points.”
But that doesn’t stop the students from trying the drug. Teens may try marijuana as an outlet for pleasure and fun. Research shows that marijuana is known for having side effects, such as rapid heartbeat, feelings of panic, dry mouth, sweating, red eyes and trouble with breathing.
A 17-year-old recent graduate of Co-op Arts High School in New Haven said that she loves it and feels like there’s no risk of smoking marijuana.
“Yeah man, I love it and it’s really safe. Because not only are you not hurting anyone but also you’re remaining calm, which is what doctors recommend,” she said. “I only smoke at social functions. Luckily, I haven’t gotten addicted, and I personally think weed is overrated for bad things.”
“No one ever died from smoking weed, however it can really kill your brain cells,” she said. “But weed calms you though, and it’s natural unlike cigs. It’s Earth’s gift, man.”
Arijan Ager of Hamden said she does not mind if people smoke marijuana around her, but it’s not for her.
“Weed sometimes scares me cause I don’t want people to go off on me, but besides that, weed is okay,” she said. “I have fun all the time without getting high. Maybe it’s because I’m really basic. People think that when they are high, they can act a certain way. I don’t know — you can have fun at a party sober. If the party is boring, you can make it fun. People need to stop relying on weed to have fun,” said Ager.
A 17-year-old graduate of High School in the Community in New Haven said she tried marijuana but wouldn’t do it again.
“ I don’t like smoking weed,” she said. “It makes me feel paranoid and tired.”
Radiant Holly graduated in 2014 from the Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, New Haven.