Skip to Main Content Health Care Professionals Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit Search

Parents: Youth and Cannabis Use

Parents, what you need to know about youth cannabis use

The Facts

  • Youth begin using cannabis around 15-16 years old.
  • Studies show that initiating cannabis at a young age, primarily before age 16, increases the risks for a variety of adverse health outcomes.
  • The younger a person is when starting cannabis use, the greater the likelihood of developing more severe health problems.
  • Cannabis is often one of the first drugs a teen is offered.
  • Canadian youth have one of the highest rates of cannabis worldwide.
  • 1 in 5 youth aged 15-19 have used cannabis in the past year. In Ontario, cannabis use increases with high school grade level to a high of 37.2% among grade 12 students.
  • A recent Ontario survey revealed that 19% of 16-19 year olds had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had consumed cannabis.
  • Cannabis can be smoked in a “joint”, inhaled through a “bong” or mixed into food and ingested as candies, cookies or brownies. Cannabis can also be laced with other harmful substances (i.e cocaine).
  • Terms for cannabis include: marijuana, bud, blunt, chronic, dope, grass, green, hash, mary jane, mj, pot, reefer, skunk, weed, etc.

Why do some teens use cannabis?

Teens may use cannabis for a variety of reasons, these include:

  • To relax
  • To have fun
  • To alter their perspective
  • To fit in
  • To experiment

Some teens see cannabis as natural and easy to get, even easier than alcohol.

How does cannabis use affect youth?

Frequent and regular cannabis use that begins early in adolescence and continues over time has been associated with increased risk of harms, some irreversible. Since youth brain development continues to the age of 25, cannabis use during adolescence has serious effects on brain development and function.

Regular cannabis use is associated with:

  • Experience of psychotic symptoms (changes in thoughts, feelings, behaviours)
  • Increased risk of anxiety and depression
  • Poor school performance, lower grades, higher risk of dropping out
  • Addiction

How do I know if my teen is using cannabis?

Signs to watch for:

  • Declining school work and grades
  • Deteriorating relationships with family
  • Abrupt changes in friends
  • Abnormal health issues or sleeping habits
  • Less openness and honesty

Watch list for parents

How do I talk to my teen about cannabis?

Drug Free Kids Canada has developed a detailed guide for talking to your teens about cannabis use.


For more information on youth and cannabis use, tips for parents, and resources follow the links below

Parents: Help your teen understand what’s fact and fiction about marijuana
Drug Free Kids Canada: Tips for Parents
Drug Free Kids Canada: Cannabis Drug Info
Talking About and Spotting Substance Use