What Your Doctor Thinks About Marijuana

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Doctor speaking with a patient.

Note (2015): We have updated this post below since it was first published.

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an organization that represents doctors who specialize in treating children and adolescents, published a statement opposing most uses of medical marijuana and the legalization of marijuana, because of the possible ways the drug can harm young people.

You’re aware that there’s been a lot of talk about whether the government should relax its marijuana laws, or even make it legal. There are lots of strong opinions for and against. So far, voters in four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana.

Nearly half of the states have also passed laws allowing medical use of marijuana, even though so far there’s very little science supporting it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which puts its stamp of approval on medicines, has never approved it.

Doctors who treat young people are worried about the long-term dangers of exposure to marijuana when the brain is still growing—usually until you’re in your early 20s. Studies show that young people are especially vulnerable to becoming addicted to drugs, including marijuana. And heavy use of marijuana in the teen years has been linked with loss of IQ—which can potentially have a domino effect in a person’s life: worse grades, worse jobs, worse relationships, and so on.…

The AAP also recommended that, in places where marijuana has already been legalized, authorities take steps to keep it out of the hands of young people and to place limits on advertising that might make it seem appealing to kids.

Although the AAP is opposed to most medical marijuana—and especially against using marijuana to treat children and teens—it does support loosening the legal restrictions (“scheduling”) on marijuana that sometimes make it hard for researchers to study the possible health benefits of the plant and the cannabinoid chemicals it contains. More research could lead to FDA-approved drugs that use these potentially healing chemicals, but do not require smoking the plant, which can affect your lung health.

Tell us what you think: Are these doctors right? Do you think more kids would use marijuana if it was made legal? Do you think most teens realize their brain is still growing and could be affected by marijuana use?  

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