Teenagers don’t think pot is a big deal. Because of that, moms and dads need a major heads-up.
The pediatrician, at the teen’s next appointment, may be having a conversation with him or her about why that’s a problem.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on Monday released the report, “Counseling Parents and Teens about Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana.” It comes as voters in a growing number of states have either approved recreational or medicinal use of the drug, or are seriously looking to make that leap.
It also comes as a result of more kids smoking pot. Almost 40 percent of U.S. high school students report having tried marijuana; about 20 percent say they are current users; and almost 10 percent of teens admit to trying the drug before age 13.
Use among 12th grade students, specifically, is up 36 percent over a year ago. And parents are asking pediatricians to help answer some very tough questions.
“The kids I’m seeing are coming in and saying, ‘It’s really no big deal to do weed, Doctor,'” said one pediatrician.
‘No Big Deal’
“The kids I’m seeing are coming in and saying, ‘It’s really no big deal to do weed, Doctor,'” said Dr. Rosemary Stein, a pediatrician from North Carolina. “And the parents I’m seeing are thinking, ‘It is a big deal,’ and they don’t want their kids doing it. They want me to get through to them that ‘it’s not good for you,’ and to ask where they’re hearing that ‘it’s OK.'”
The message is one Stein knows kids are getting bombarded with, especially as lobbying picks up to further legalize the drug across the nation. She is happy to see the AAP come out with a strong stance on the subject — and some strong language for pediatricians and parents to use as well, which outlines the dangers of pot for kids.
She just wishes it went even further. “Kids are getting hit with this double message. It’s like we’re telling them, ‘It’s bad, but it’s not too bad.’ And they feel like, ‘Everyone else is doing it,’ so they wonder why you’re being so hard on them. They’re wondering why it’s such a big deal,” Stein told LifeZette.
Irreparable Damage to Young Minds
One of the worst mistakes is legalizing marijuana. The drug is much more potent than it’s ever been. The people who will use it are our youth, “and it affects their outcome irreparably.”
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Adverse effects are well-documented and continue to be studied, a summary of the report states. Some of the more concerning impacts include “short-term impairment of memory, attention, concentration and problem-solving skills, as well as motor control, coordination and reaction time,” Sheryl A. Ryan, M.D., wrote for the AAP.
“Development of mental health disorders such as depression and psychosis also have been reported. New studies evaluating abnormalities in brain regions involved in memory and executive functioning in teens using marijuana regularly and/or heavily raise concerns about long-term and lasting effects on brain maturation and functioning,” she added.
The AAP is urging physicians to screen adolescents for marijuana use. Doctors are also encouraged to tell parents that they should be watching for signs of use, as marijuana products available today can be more than three to five times stronger than even a decade ago — and newer methods, such as vaping or “dabbing,” have an even higher risk of toxic effects.
“You can’t tell what that young person would be without marijuana,” said Stein. “You don’t know what his or her potential was supposed to be. When we have all of these kids getting the message that ‘it’s OK,’ we’re going to have a whole generation of drug users and abusers that every time they have a little problem and life doesn’t suit them, they’re going to start toking up. It’s an incredibly unhealthy life habit.”