A group of reputable pediatricians are warning parents not to dismiss the health implications of marijuana consumption to children and teenagers in the wake of its legalization across the US.
Marijuana is now legal for recreational use in 8 states, while 28 states have legalized its medicinal use and 22 states have decriminalized the use of marijuana to an infraction or a misdemeanor.
A report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advised parents to keep their children away from marijuana as much as possible.
Despite the wave of legalization and acceptance of the drug, Dr. Seth Ammerman deems it prudent to keep marijuana well away from the “developing brains” of children and teenagers altogether.
As benign as occasional marijuana use may be to adults, Dr. Ammerman argues that parents should not think that the drug will have the same effect on children and teenagers.
The February report not only contains a warning to parents and children, it also advises doctors on how to deal with a lax disposition towards drug use, especially when children are involved.
The Potential Harm Marijuana Can Cause to a Child
The main concern surrounding marijuana usage around children is the impact it may have on their developing brains.
The human brain continues to develop until the early 20s, and introducing a mind-altering drug such as marijuana might have some serious short term and long term effects in adolescents.
Some of the impairments brought about by excessive marijuana usage may be memory-related, noting that the drug brings changes to the regions of the brain concerned with short-term and long-term memory.
Using marijuana from a young age is also reported to lower the IQ scores of an individual, while other studies show that young people are more likely to get addicted to the drug when they start early.
However, most of these problems are also correlated with the genetics of an individual: some people are more likely to be affected by it than others, much like with other substance dependencies.
Marijuana is a lot Stronger these Days
According to Sheryl A. Ryan, the chairperson of the AAP Committee on Substance Use and Prevention and the lead author of the AAP report, parents have a difficult time knowing what approach is best when it comes to speaking to their children about marijuana usage.
This is fundamental because many of them have used the drug in their formative years and still perceive it as having benign implications.
However, there is cause for concern because the majority of the marijuana products today have considerably higher levels of THC, the powerful psychoactive main ingredient that induces the high.
THC levels have been found to be as high as 12% in various marijuana products as of 2012, which is quite an increase when compared to the 4% that was present in marijuana back in the 1980s.
The potential for addiction has tripled based on this fact, and the adverse effects of drug use are much more apparent.
Marijuana Remains Largely Beneficial in the Field of Medicine
As much as the AAP report brought out some of the less discussed harms of marijuana, the benefits of marijuana, particularly when it is used for medicinal purposes, are evident even for children.
The AAP recommends that marijuana should only be given to children as a way of curbing strong epileptic episodes induced by conditions such as Dravet Syndrome, which shows that the drug has a significantly beneficial side for managing health issues.
Furthermore, the use of medicinal marijuana in cancer treatment indicates that it is highly unlikely to lose any significance based on the AAP report.
Nevertheless, marijuana still poses negative impacts to developing minds, especially those that are still essentiallyin the formative stage of learning and growing.
It should not be left in the hands of children and teenagers with little sense of moderation and reasoning in comparison to those with more emotionally and physiologically developed minds.