In my office, I regularly hear teens justify their marijuana use as “no big deal.” Every teen believes that they aren’t addicted, can stop at any moment, and it doesn’t affect them negatively. The parental responses are much more varied, anywhere from smoking with their teens to being so horrified that they want to kill their teens.

With more and more states legalizing marijuana, it is a hot topic. Although it isn’t legal for use by minors, there is always a trickle down in availability to kids. So here’s the straight scoop on marijuana (scientifically speaking, keeping my own personal beliefs out of this emotional topic).

Medical marijuana facts:

This is directly from the American Academy of Pediatrics “State Advocacy Focus” ( July 2017:

“Marijuana is classified as a schedule 1 drug by the US Drug enforcement Agency (DEA), signifying the drug has a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or substance under medical supervision. Cannabinoids, which are components of marijuana, have been proven to be effective in treating of specific conditions in adults including nausea, vomiting, and chronic pain conditions. Currently, 3 pharmaceutical cannabinoids have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Though anecdotal accounts have shown that certain cannabinoids could benefit children with certain chronic debilitating diseases, there has been no published studies about the effects on cannabinoids on the pediatric population.”

  • 30 states and DC have laws legalizing the use of “medical marijuana” (with the greatest proportion being states in the northeast and west, except Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming)
  • 17 states have laws legalizing cannabis oil to treat seizures in children

What’s the real harm?

Multiple studies have scientifically shown that marijuana isn’t as harmless as people make it out to be. Marijuana is addictive. Because the drug isn’t associated with severe withdrawal symptoms (like many other drugs), it is perceived as “not addictive.” However, withdrawal is only a part of addiction. There are multiple negative consequences, including (but not limited to):

  1. Impaired short-term memory
  2. Decreased concentration
  3. Decreased attention span
  4. Decreased problem solving skills
  5. Interference with learning
  6. Impaired coordination
  7. Impaired judgement
  8. Slowed reaction time
  9. Impaired ability to track
  10. Negative effects on lung function (when smoked)
  11. Some associated development of depression and/or anxiety with use
  12. Increased rates of psychosis (in patients with predisposition to schizophrenia)
  13. Heavy use disrupts hormone levels (e.g. cortisol, prolactin, possibly testosterone)
  14. Increased rates of engaging in sexually risky behavior
  15. Association with decreased rates of high school completion
  16. Associated with increased rates of use of other drugs (for many adolescents it is the first illegal drug they try)
  17. Dose dependent association (increasing rates with more use) with suicide attempts
  18. If caught and incarcerated (for using an illegal drug), there are lifelong negative effects of criminal records
  19. Possible effects on a developing brain (especially the prefrontal cortex that continues to develop into the mid 20s). This is a burgeoning area of scientific research.

As you can see, marijuana isn’t as benign as one might think. So don’t be afraid to discuss the possible dangers with your teen.

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About The Author

Dr. Monica Wonnacott

I'm a pediatrician and a mom. I've been doing this doctor thing for 10 years, and love it. I'm known for giving parents the straight scoop without always sugar-coating it. And I believe in educating parents. The more you know, the better care you give your kids.

Dr. Monica Wonnacott, Pediatric Answers ™

I'm a pediatrician and a mom. Pediatric AnswersTM is where parents can get the straight scoop on their child's health, largely based on my experience in the office and at home. I don't diagnose on the site, so please don't ask. These are just my opinions. Use this site as a resource. And trust your parent gut.

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