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Doctors warn against teen pot use amid looser marijuana laws



Associated Press
Monday, February 27, 2017

An influential doctors group is beefing up warnings about marijuana’s potential harms for teens amid increasingly lax laws and attitudes on pot use.

Many parents use the drug and think it’s okay for their kids, but “we would rather not mess around with the developing brain,” Dr. Seth Ammerman said.

The advice comes in a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, published Monday in Pediatrics.

Ammerman, a Stanford University pediatrics professor who co-wrote the report, said parents are increasingly asking doctors about kids’ use.

“Parents will say, ‘I use it moderately and I’m fine with it, so it’s really benign and not a problem if my kid uses it,’ ” he said.

Potential harms

The brain continues to develop until the early 20s, raising concerns about the potential short- and long-term effects of a mind-altering drug. Some studies suggest that teens who use marijuana at least 10 times a month develop changes in brain regions affecting memory and the ability to plan. Some changes may be permanent, the report says.

Frequent use starting in the early teen years may lower IQ scores, and some studies have shown that starting marijuana use at a young age is more likely to lead to addiction than starting in adulthood.

Medical vs. recreational

Solid research on medical marijuana’s effects in children and teens is lacking, although some studies have suggested it may benefit kids with hard-to-treat seizures.

Recreational use is illegal for those under age 21 even in states that allow adult use. Parents should avoid using marijuana in front of their kids and should keep all marijuana products stored out of kids’ sight, the academy says. Some young children who accidentally swallowed their parents’ pot-containing cookies or drinks have landed in the emergency room for mostly minor symptoms although some developed breathing problems.

Who’s using

Government data show that almost 40 percent of U.S. high school students have tried marijuana, about 20 percent are current users and close to 10 percent first tried it before age 13. Use has increased in recent years among those aged 18 and older but not among young teens. Still, kids aged 12-17 increasingly think that marijuana use is not harmful.