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Counselling Parents and Teens about Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana

Parents and Teens about Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana“Counselling Parents and Teens about Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana” Ryan, et. al., Pediatrics. March 2017 Volume 139/3.

We would like to share with our patients and friends a timely article on marijuana. This article represents up to date information on the effects of marijuana we thought you may like to know. In addition we have attached a verbatim copy of a hand out for parents and teens about the effects of marijuana. Please feel free to share with family and friends.

As you know tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive substance in the marijuana plant. It’s concentration has increased considerably, from approximately 4% in the early 1980’s to upward of 12% in 2012, which increases the risk of adverse effects and the potential for addiction. The active compound in marijuana, cannabinoids have been shown to be helpful for adults in addressing some symptoms, such as increasing appetite and decreasing nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy and reducing pain in chronic neuropathic pain syndromes. Cannabinoids may have adverse effects, however such as dizziness, dysphoria and clouded sensorium. For children and adolescents the only studies looking at the effectiveness of marijuana has been for refractory seizures (those that don’t respond to available medications).

Marijuana has well documented adverse effects including impaired short-term memory and decreased concentration, decreased attention span and decreased problem solving skills all of which interfere with learning. Also alterations in control of coordination, judgement, reaction time and tracking ability have been documented. Some states have seen an increase in unintentional deaths and injuries among adolescents especially when used with driving. Marijuana smoke has negative effects on lung function. Marijuana has been linked with higher rates of depression and psychosis and concern is now rising for long term psychiatric effects.

Marijuana effects brain development. The adolescent brain is not fully developed until the early 20’s and studies show youth who use marijuana regularly (10 – 19 times/month) or heavily (20 or more times/month) may have potential abnormalities in parts of the brain that control memory, executive functioning and planning. “A major study also has shown that long-term marijuana use initiated in adolescence has negative effects on intellectual function and that the deficits in cognitive areas, such as executive function and processing speed, did not recover by adulthood, even when marijuana use was discontinued.”

Marijuana is addictive. Overall 9% of those experimenting with marijuana will become addicted and increases to 17% for those who start marijuana use in adolescence and increases to between 25% and 50% among teenagers who smoke marijuana daily.

Marijuana should never be used during pregnancy. Marijuana used during pregnancy has been shown to affect growth. Long term effects such as subtle deficits in learning and memory as well as deficits in problem solving skills that require sustained attention have been reported. Stay tuned for more studies looking at long term effects on babies exposed before they were born.

Read more (downloadable PDF): Marijuana Talking Points


About author MacKoul Pediatrics

MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.

May 1, 2017