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Lesson: Marijuana Facts—Breaking Down the Myths

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Use the lesson and student work sheet below to reinforce comprehension of the student article "Marijuana Facts: Breaking Down the Myths."

Dear Teacher:
The most recent Monitoring the Future survey showed an increase in daily marijuana use among high school students from 2009 to 2010. The survey also found that fewer teens consider marijuana to be harmful. This “softening” of teen attitudes may be attributed to mixed and even favorable messages about marijuana in popular culture and the media.

The fact is that marijuana use poses serious risks, and young people are the most vulnerable. The younger a person is when they start smoking marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted. It is estimated that one in six people who start using marijuana in their teens will become addicted.

Experts at NIDA want to give your students the straight facts about the consequences of marijuana use on their bodies, brains, and futures. We hope you share this article with your students so they will be well-informed about the risks associated with marijuana use.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse

In This Installment:
Student article: Scientific facts about the risks associated with marijuana use
Student work sheet: Students create a public service announcement (PSA) to inform their peers about the risks of marijuana use.

Lesson Plan and Work Sheet
Overview: The lesson and the reproducible student work sheet below reinforce student comprehension of key facts and concepts in the article “Marijuana Facts.”

Alignment With National Standards
•  Science (NSES): Life Science: Structure and Function in Living Systems; Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and Community Health
•  Life Skills (McREL): Self-Regulation; Thinking and Reasoning


Before-Reading Questions:
•  Do you think marijuana is addictive?
•  What do you know about how marijuana affects your memory, motor skills, and judgment?

After-Reading Questions (factual responses in italics):

•  Why is marijuana addictive? (The main active ingredient in marijuana, THC, binds to receptors [proteins] in the brain that are located in areas regulating mood, sensation, memory, feelings, etc. Marijuana also indirectly increases dopamine—just as most drugs of abuse do—which contributes to the high users experience. These effects are why some people use marijuana again and again, which can lead to addiction.)

•  Why can abusing marijuana lead to lower grades? (Marijuana affects attention and memory, making it difficult to learn, focus, or concentrate. These effects can lead to poor academic performance.)

•  Why is driving under the influence of marijuana dangerous? (Marijuana use impairs motor coordination. It slows reaction times to signals and sounds while driving. These effects increase the likelihood of an accident.)

Critical Thinking:
•  Research shows that the younger someone is when they start smoking marijuana, the more likely they are to become addicted. In fact, one in six people who start smoking marijuana in their teens will become addicted. How does knowing this and other facts in the article affect any decision you make about using marijuana?
•  Imagine your friend is using marijuana, and you are trying to convince him or her to stop. Your friend says that the drug is not harmful and everybody does it. What would you say to him or her? (Possible answer: Most teens DON’T smoke marijuana. The facts show that serious risks ARE associated with marijuana use, especially for teens.)

Student Work Sheet

Have students (individually or in groups) create a PSA and present it to the class. Evaluate students on their creativity and ability to include facts from the article in a comprehensive and interesting way.

Click here to download and print a copy of the Student Work Sheet (PDF)

Click here for the Student Work Sheet online (HTML)

Extension: Have students record their PSA and present it to the class. Students can also log on to to hear original songs and music videos created by teens about substance-abuse awareness.

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