As Pot Legalization Advances, Pediatricians Warn of Dangers

MONDAY, Feb. 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging doctors to protect children from the harms of marijuana as the nation becomes increasingly tolerant of the drug's use.

"Marijuana is not a benign drug, especially for teens. Their brains are still developing, and marijuana can cause abnormal and unhealthy changes," said Dr. Seth Ammerman in an AAP news release. He's one of the authors of a new report by the academy.

The authors said the report tries to rebut any perceptions that marijuana is safe, even as 29 states and Washington, D.C. allow its use for medical purposes, recreational use or both.

Regular use of pot by kids may contribute to addiction, depression, psychosis, lung problems, memory and attention problems, and impaired driving, the AAP said.

The report authors noted that research suggests modern marijuana is stronger than it was 20 years ago. They contend this makes overdoses and addiction more likely.

The AAP recommends that doctors urge parents not to use pot around their kids.

"Parents who use marijuana themselves may not fully realize the effect this can have on their children," said Dr. Sheryl Ryan, lead author of the report and chairperson of the academy's Committee on Substance Use and Prevention.

"Seeing parents use marijuana makes kids more likely to use it themselves, whether or not their parents tell them not to, because actions speak louder than words," she said.

Ryan also cautioned about the potential of exposing kids to secondhand smoke or, if they eat edible products, of accidentally poisoning their children. And parents who are high might not be able to keep their children safe, she said.

The academy recommends that pediatricians screen teens and preteens for substance abuse. If the kids are found to be using drugs, doctors should suggest treatment options.

The report appears in the Feb. 27 online issue of the journal Pediatrics.

More information

For more about teens and marijuana, visit the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse.

SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, Feb. 27, 2017