Friday, January 30, 2015

AAP Discourages the Legalization of Marijuana

There has been an on going discussion about the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use. Pediatric Health Associates and the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] strongly discourages the use of marijuana in our patient population.

We discourage the use of marijuana in teens due to the well documented adverse affects and the serious health concerns. These effects include impaired short term memory, decreased concentration, decreased attention span, lower IQ and decreased problem solving. These factors would clearly interfere with a teens ability to learn and thrive in a school setting. Further, we know that a significant percentage of teen users suffer depression and increased anxiety after using marijuana.

Research tells us that early marijuana use decreases a teens odds of graduating from high school or obtaining a college degree. We also know that early marijuana use in the teen years can be a gateway to other illicit drugs and adult addictions and drug dependencies.  In addition, states that have legalized the drug have seen a marked jump in driving accidents and DUI arrests related to marijuana.

Lastly, new research is showing that areas of the brain that control judgment and decision making are not fully developed until the mid-20s. As your health care providers, this greatly concerns us when considering how marijuana affects an immature and still developing brain. We feel that it is our duty as medical professionals to provide you with this information and encourage you to not only speak to your teens but be informed voters and communicate with your legislatures. Also consider that if marijuana is legalized for adults, it will increase the access for teens. 

Should it be used in children for medical treatment? Current research does not show that any benefits of marijuana use outweigh the risks outlined above. We will defer to your child's neurologist or oncologist, but we will not be prescribing the drug.

While we strongly discourage the use of marijuana in our population, we share the AAP's belief that marijuana use should be decriminalized.  The AAP believes that marijuana use should continue to be penalized, but not regarded as a felony offense.  Our teens make mistakes, and teens should be given the chance to move beyond them and make amends instead of receiving consequences that will follow them the rest of their lives.

During your teens/college students' annual checkups, we will continue to monitor and discourage its use. As you consider this statement, please refer to these more detailed articles.

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