Study Suggests Medical Marijuana May Do More Harm Than Good For Kids

MASSACHUSETTS:  The proclaimed benefits of medical marijuana seem to know no bounds. As state governments have finally started to embrace — or at least tolerate — the herb as a legitimate treatment for a range of physical conditions, from glaucoma to Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, scientists have moved on to examining the drug’s effect on the brain. 

Whether marijuana can also treat psychological conditions has become the subject of debate. And while recent some studies propose — although not without dispute — that pot can ease adult symptoms of certain mental illnesses, like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, a new report in the February Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pedaiatrics essentially puts the kibosh on the suggestion that marijuana might assuage behavioral disorders in children.

Widespread changes to marijuana policy throughout the country have sparked growing interest in whether pot can be used to treat developmental and behavioral disorders, such as autism and ADHD. But in their paper published this week, four doctors from Boston Children’s Hospital point out that while marijuana’s harmful effects on the developing brain have been well documented, research on pot’s benefits for young patients is practically nonexistent. 

Numerous studies have tried to connect the dots between adolescent cannabis use and anxiety, depression, decreased intelligence and even psychosis, suggesting that while pot offers plenty of proven benefits, the developing brain of a young person might be particularly vulnerable to its harm.

Medical Marijuana 101: Doctors, Regulators Brace For ‘Big Marijuana’

MASSACHUSETTS:  The argument that marijuana is poised to become Big, as in Big Tobacco, begins more than a hundred years ago, argues Dr. Sharon Levy, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Changes in curing made tobacco easier to inhale, additives made it more addictive and machines began to churn out inexpensive, readily available cigarettes. With these “innovations” and lots of market savvy ads, tobacco use and addiction rose dramatically.

“Is there anything to prevent innovative products with marijuana that will do the exact same thing?” asked Levy, who runs the adolescent substance abuse program at Children’s.

Levy described her concerns about Big Marijuana in the New England Journal of Medicine last month. She acknowledges that marijuana is nowhere near as harmful as is tobacco and that marijuana has some health benefits. But Levy worries that marijuana addiction rates, now around 9 percent of users, could climb to those seen among tobacco users (32 percent) without strict controls on growers and manufacturers. Growers are already producing strains of marijuana with stronger and stronger concentrations of THC, the ingredient that makes people high. It’s also the ingredient that seems to trigger depression, anxiety and sometimes psychosis in Levy’s adolescent patients.