Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance among adolescents.2 Sale and possession of marijuana for medical and recreational use by adults remains illegal in most states and is illegal under federal law. However, several states have passed legislation to allow medical use and a few allow recreational use by adults.
Earlier this year the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated it policy on marijuana use. I think it’s important for parents, kids, and people in general to be aware of the Academy’s policy and understand why our nation’s pediatricians oppose its use.
The adverse effects of marijuana have been well documented, and studies have demonstrated negative consequences of short- and long-term recreational use of marijuana in adolescents. These include:
- Impaired short-term memory and decreased concentration, attention span, and problem solving, which clearly interfere with learning.
- Alterations in motor control, coordination, judgment, reaction time, and tracking 7; these may contribute to unintentional deaths and injuries among adolescents.8
- Negative health effects on lung function.
- Higher rates of psychosis and a predisposition to schizophrenia.9
- Reduction in the odds of high school completion and degree attainment.
- Increase use of other illicit drugs.
- Increased risk of suicide attempts in a dose-dependent fashion that suggests that marijuana use is causative.11
The negative health effects of marijuana in children and adolescents, made the AAP’s decision to oppose marijuana use in this population easy to understand. But the Academy went further and opposed medical marijuana in agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration’s policy. However, they did acknowledge that marijuana, as cannabinoid, may be administered to children with life-limiting or severely debilitating conditions and for whom current therapies are inadequate.
Additionally, this committee of pediatrician drug and addiction specialists strongly supported research and development of pharmaceutical cannabinoids and the medical use of these compounds.
Wisely, the committee also strongly supported the decriminalization of marijuana use to prevent harsh criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana. Rather, they want to focus on treatment for adolescents who use marijuana and discourage the use of marijuana by adults who are, like it or not, their role models.
The above is extracted from the AAP’s report. I intentionally kept the references as listed. If you are reading this on line you will be able to click on the reference number to read the study quoted. If you would like to see the AAP’s policy go to http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/135/3/584.long, or Pediatrics. 2015:135(3):584-587.