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

Molecules in spit may be able to diagnose and predict length of concussions

November 20, 2017
Diagnosing a concussion can sometimes be a guessing game, but clues taken from small molecules in saliva may be able to help diagnose and predict the duration of concussions in children, according to Penn State College of ...

Breastfed babies are less likely to have eczema as teenagers, study shows

November 13, 2017
Babies whose mothers had received support to breastfeed exclusively for a sustained period from birth have a 54% lower risk of eczema at the age of 16, a new study led by researchers from King's College London, Harvard University, ...

Obesity during pregnancy may lead directly to fetal overgrowth, study suggests

November 13, 2017
Obesity during pregnancy—independent of its health consequences such as diabetes—may account for the higher risk of giving birth to an atypically large infant, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. ...

Working to reduce brain injury in newborns

November 10, 2017
Research-clinicians at Children's National Health System led the first study to identify a promising treatment to reduce or prevent brain injury in newborns who have suffered hypoxia-ischemia, a serious complication in which ...

Why do some kids die under dental anesthesia?

November 9, 2017
Anesthesiologists call for more research into child deaths caused by dental anesthesia in an article published online by the journal Pediatrics.

Probability calculations—even babies can master it

November 3, 2017
One important feature of the brain is its ability to make generalisations based on sparse data. By learning regularities in our environment it can manage to guide our actions. As adults, we have therefore a vague understanding ...

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.