Cannabis in America
Pediatricians’ Group Issues New Guidelines Regarding Kids and Marijuana
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Monday released new guidelines for pediatricians to follow in light of recent marijuana legalization developments. Marijuana is legal, either medically or recreationally, in 28 states and D.C. Though overall marijuana use, even in states with the most lenient laws, has remained the same, decriminalization has “created an environment in which marijuana increasingly is seen as acceptable, safe, and therapeutic,” the report said.
This, the report added, can “affect use among adolescents by decreasing the perceived risk of harm or through the marketing of legal marijuana, despite restrictions that prohibit marketing and advertising to this age group.”
Co-written by Dr. Sheryl Ryan and Dr. Seth Ammerman, the report, “Counseling Parents and Teens about Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana” will be published in the March edition of the Journal of Pediatrics. With an absence of solid scientific research into marijuana’s effects on brain development, Ryan said in a press release, pediatricians and parents must play a vital role in educating children to abstain from the drug.
“The adolescent brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex areas that control judgment and decision-making, is not fully developed until the early 20s, raising questions about how any substance use may affect the developing brain,” the report said. Ryan, in the press release, noted the negative effects marijuana might have on a developing brain: “short-term impairment of memory, attention, concentration and problem-solving skills, as well as motor control, coordination and reaction time.”
Marijuana, though illegal for anyone younger than 21, even in states that have legalized it for recreational use, is more accessible than ever before. Use among children ages 12 to 17 has remained steady since 2002. But there has also been an uptick in calls and visits to poison centers over the past few years, mostly involving children (babies as well) who have accidentally consumed a piece of candy or baked good infused with marijuana.
The stigma surrounding the drug is also dissipating, which is alarming to health professionals who are not entirely certain about its health effects, especially on developing brains. In addition, the concentration of THC–the active chemical in marijuana–in a plant has increased. In the 1980s, marijuana had a THC concentration of about four percent; in 2012, that rose to 12 percent.
The report included “talking points for parents and teens,” such as: regular marijuana use among teens can lead to depression; use by minors is illegal, and can lead to prosecution and a criminal record; secondhand marijuana smoke is toxic. The report suggests parents not use marijuana in front of their children, keep marijuana-infused edibles stowed away, and to “not share your own histories of drug use with your children.”