Monday, August 6, 2012

Child & Adolescent Psychiatry group concerned about marijuana policy

While the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's recent statement is about medical marijuana, not marijuana legalization, some of the information it contains can inform the legalization debate.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is concerned about the negative impact of medical marijuana on youth.  Adolescents are especially vulnerable to the many adverse developmental, cognitive, medical, psychiatric, and addictive effects of marijuana.  Of particular concern to our field, adolescent marijuana users are more likely than adult users to develop marijuana dependence, and their heavy use is associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, and anxiety disorders.  Furthermore, marijuana's deleterious effects on cognition and brain development during adolescence may have lasting implications.

The "medicalization" of smoked marijuana has distorted the perception of the known risks and purported benefits of this drug. Since certain states began permitting dispensing of medical marijuana, adolescents' perceptions of the harmful effects of marijuana have decreased and marijuana use has increased significantly.  There is also emerging evidence that adolescents are accessing medical marijuana for recreational use.  Therefore AACAP urges more scientific evaluation and a risk:benefit analysis by interdisciplinary experts to determine whether there is any medical indication for marijuana dispensing given the potential harm to adolescents.

In summary:
  • Adolescents are especially vulnerable to adverse consequences of marijuana use.
  • Medical marijuana dispensing is associated with reduced perception of marijuana-related risks and increased rates of marijuana use among adolescents.
  • AACAP thus opposes medical marijuana dispensing to adolescents. 

Adolescent marijuana use is harmful and any proposed law that would make marijuana more acceptable to use and easier to get needs to be scrutinized to make sure it won't negatively affect teenagers.  Future legislation regarding medical marijuana in our state should include tighter regulations to ensure Washington teenagers are not accessing medical marijuana for recreational purposes.  

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