In November 2016, Florida became one of 28 states (including the District of Columbia) to legalize medical marijuana. While each state has taken their own approach to how the programs work, they are all for the most part fairly similar. Additionally, there are now seven (7) states that have voted in favor of recreational marijuana for adult use.
As Americans become more tolerant of marijuana, there are several organizations and lawmakers who are still unsure if this is the right course to take. However, the concerns are often not regarding adults using the drug, but rather adolescents and young adults who are more at-risk and vulnerable to the effects of experimentation with marijuana. Let’s take a moment to explore some concerns.
American Academy of Pediatrics Takes On Marijuana
On February 27, 2017, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report highlighting the risks of young people using cannabis, CBS News reports. The report comes in the wake of more and more parents asking their doctors to weigh in on marijuana use among kids. The AAP’s report, published in the journal Pediatrics, cites research indicating that marijuana can wreak havoc on developing brains, causing problems with memory and the ability to plan. The AAP points out that the brain is still developing in one’s early twenties.
The report also cites previous research which has shown that early initiation of marijuana use increases the risk of addiction developing in adulthood, according to the article. But despite such realities, more and more young people perceive marijuana as a benign substance. Almost 40 percent of high school students across the country have used marijuana at least once (10 percent used the drug before turning 13-years of age, according to government data. Roughly 20 percent of U.S. high schoolers are current cannabis users.) As more and more states legalize marijuana, the perception of harm among young people decrease and parents become more confused about how to handle this issue with their children.
Marijuana “is the drug of choice” for many of my teenage patients, says the report’s lead author, Dr. Sheryl Ryan, a Yale University pediatrics professor.
Marijuana’s Path to Addiction
Dr. Ryan goes on to say that many young people form their opinion about the drug based on the fact that their parents used the drug, and nothing bad happened, the article reports. However, marijuana (today) is far more potent than it was historically. Higher potency can result in greater changes to one’s brain. The drug should be avoided by young people, as much as possible.
Greater potency could mean heightened risk for dependency. When it comes to addiction many believe marijuana use is not habit forming, and that it does not lead to physical dependency. However, while symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may not be as severe as opioids, alcohol or other substances, it still has symptoms like cravings, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, mood swings and irritability. What’s more, people who use marijuana regularly are far more likely to experiment with other, more potentially dangerous substances. Marijuana use can lead to dependency in some individuals and the younger, more underdeveloped brains of teens are particularly vulnerable to the effects of marijuana.
It is vital that parents heed the AAP’s report and do what they can to mitigate the risk of their teenager using the drug. It is important for parents to understand that marijuana is not a harmless drug and the marijuana that is being used today is not the same substance they may have experimented with when they were younger. It is more potent and has a higher risk of dependency, especially in the adolescent brain.
Learn About Our At-Risk Program
Among the many addiction and mental health services provided by Family Recovery Specialists, the At-Risk Program is designed for young adults and adolescents who are experimenting with or abusing substances, but may not have a more serious problem.
These individuals typically are in the early stages of substance use and often do not meet criteria for substance dependence. The At-Risk program is more intensive than an individual/family therapy approach and provides education for the parents and the child, as well as individual therapy, family therapy and a group component. Additionally, our program explores the underlying reasons for a child’s experimentation with substances. We offer tools for making better decisions and avoiding further substance use. This is an early intervention program that can prevent a child from continued exploration and the consequences related to substance use. In addition we do provide more intensive services for teens and young adults that do show more clear signs of abuse or addiction.
Family Recovery Specialists is available to confidentially discuss your situation and answer any questions you may have. We offer evaluations and consultations, if you are interested in seeing if your child or young adult may have a problem with substances and could benefit from any of the services we offer.