Pediatricians warn against pot use: Not your dad's marijuana

February 27, 2017 by Lindsey Tanner
A dried flower bud of the Cannabis plant. Credit: Public Domain

An influential doctors group is beefing up warnings about marijuana's potential harms for teens amid increasingly lax laws and attitudes on pot use.

Many parents use the drug and think it's OK for their kids, but "we would rather not mess around with the developing brain," said Dr. Seth Ammerman.

The advice comes in a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, published Monday in Pediatrics. The group opposes medical and recreational marijuana use for kids. It says emphasizing that message is important because most states have legalized medical use for adults, and many have decriminalized or legalized adults' recreational use.

Those trends have led parents to increasingly ask doctors about kids' use, said Ammerman, a Stanford University pediatrics professor who co-wrote the report.

"Parents will say, 'I use it moderately and I'm fine with it, so it's really benign and not a problem if my kid uses it,'" he said.

Doctors need to know how to respond to that thinking, and parents and teens need to know the risks, Ammerman said.

POTENTIAL HARMS

The brain continues to develop until the early 20s, raising concerns about the potential short- and long-term effects of a mind-altering drug. Some studies suggest that teens who use marijuana at least 10 times a month develop changes in brain regions affecting memory and the ability to plan. Some changes may be permanent, the report says.

Frequent use starting in the early teen years may lower IQ scores, and some studies have shown that starting marijuana use at a young age is more likely to lead to addiction than starting in adulthood. Not all teen users develop these problems and some may be more vulnerable because of genetics or other factors.

MEDICAL VERSUS RECREATIONAL USE

Solid research on medical marijuana's effects in children and teens is lacking, although some studies have suggested it may benefit kids with hard-to-treat seizures. The report says other potential benefits, doses and effects are mostly unknown.

Recreational use is illegal for those under age 21 even in states that allow adult use. Parents should avoid using marijuana in front of their kids and should keep all marijuana products stored out of kids' sight, the academy says. Some young children who accidentally swallowed their parents' pot-containing cookies or drinks have landed in the emergency room for mostly minor symptoms although some developed breathing problems.

WHO'S USING

Government data show that almost 40 percent of U.S. high school students have tried marijuana, about 20 percent are current users and close to 10 percent first tried it before age 13. Use has increased in recent years among those aged 18 and older but not among young teens. Still, kids aged 12-17 increasingly think that marijuana use is not harmful.

Dr. Sheryl Ryan, a Yale University pediatrics professor and lead author of the academy report, said marijuana "is the drug of choice" for many of her teen patients in New Haven, Connecticut. Some think daily use is safe, noting that their parents or grandparents smoked pot in college and turned out OK. But today's marijuana is much more potent and potentially more risky, Ryan said.

Explore further: Survey: More US adults use marijuana, don't think it's risky (Update)

More information: American Academy of Pediatrics: www.aap.org/marijuana
National Institute on Drug Abuse: tinyurl.com/q22s8uh

Related Stories

Survey: More US adults use marijuana, don't think it's risky (Update)

August 31, 2016
Marijuana use is becoming more accepted among U.S. adults as states loosen pot laws, new national survey data shows.

Medical pot only OK for sick kids failed by other drugs: MDs

January 26, 2015
With virtually no hard proof that medical marijuana benefits sick children, and evidence that it may harm developing brains, the drug should only be used for severely ill kids who have no other treatment option, the nation's ...

How can marijuana policy protect the adolescent brain?

February 8, 2017
As more states begin to legalize the use of marijuana, more young people may start to believe that it's safe to experiment with the drug. However, those under 25 are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs than are older ...

Did teen perception, use of marijuana change after recreational use legalized?

December 27, 2016
Marijuana use significantly increased and its perceived harm decreased among eighth- and 10th-graders in Washington state following enactment of recreational marijuana laws, according to a UC Davis and Columbia University ...

Legalize pot, but not for teens, many US adults say

July 16, 2013
(HealthDay)—Most American adults who support marijuana legalization oppose legal marijuana use among children and teens, according to a new survey.

Researchers fret as info lags on pot effects on older adults

December 6, 2016
Surveys show a small but growing number of older adults are using marijuana—a trend that worries researchers who say not enough information exists about how pot affects older users.

Recommended for you

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

Starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

June 22, 2017
New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

Fidget spinners are the latest toy craze, but the medical benefits are unclear

June 21, 2017
Last week, German customs agents in Frankfurt Airport seized 35 metric tons of an imported plastic device, destroying the shipment for public safety purposes before it could infiltrate the country's marketplaces.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Paulpot
not rated yet Feb 27, 2017
Doctors have been lying about cannabis for one hundred yrs resulting in thousands of people living in agony and dying prematurely. The drug war is mass torture and mass murder, the doctors are complicit in a crime against humanity. Save yourselves. Confess and beg for forgiveness.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.