Marijuana: What Parents Need to Know

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Many people today learn about drugs while they are very young and might be tempted to try them. Teens say that marijuana (cannabis) is easy to get, and it tends to be the first illegal drug they try. Marijuana use is often portrayed as harmless, but the truth is that marijuana is an addictive drug that can cause serious risks and consequences.

As a parent, you are your child's first and best protection against drug use. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about marijuana and how to help your child say "No" to drug use. (Child refers to child or teen in this publication.)

Note: In most medical marijuana states, doctors can recommend medical marijuana for almost any condition. Though there may be some benefit of cannabinoids (the active ingredient in marijuana) use in adults with specific diagnoses, there have been no studies of cannabinoids use in children and adolescents. Also, all patients need to be aware that there can be side effects.

Marijuana use affects health and well-being


Marijuana users have a hard time thinking clearly, concentrating, remembering things, and solving problems. Frequent marijuana use often causes grades to drop. Users often lose interest in school and may quit.

Driving and physical activity

Marijuana impairs judgment, complex motor skills, and the ability to judge speed and time. Those who drive or take other risks after smoking marijuana are much more likely to be injured or killed.

Sexual health

Teens who smoke marijuana are more likely to take sexual risks and have unwanted or unprotected sex.

Long-term health

Teens' bodies and brains are still growing and maturing, so smoking anything, including marijuana, is not good for lung health. Marijuana use may also lead to addiction or mental health problems (ie, depression, anxiety or schizophrenia).

How is marijuana used?

Dried marijuana plant material is usually rolled with tobacco into cigarette joints or cigar blunts and smoked. Some users mix it in food or brew a tea. Other drugs like PCP or crack cocaine can also be added to the joint, increasing the dangers from use.

Marijuana is an addictive drug

Just like with alcohol, nicotine, and other illicit drug use, children who smoke marijuana can lose control over their use and become addicted. Many people overlook marijuana addiction because its withdrawal symptoms are not prominent or may not be present at all. However, withdrawal is only one symptom of addiction.

Teens who are addicted to marijuana likely smoke several times a week or more. Although most believe they are in control and can quit at any time, most can't. Those using marijuana heavily often perform poorly in school or sports, lose interest in hobbies, and develop interpersonal problems with family and friends. Teens continuing to use marijuana into adulthood tend to have lower job achievement and less stable families than their siblings who don't use drugs. As with alcohol, the younger a person is when starting marijuana use, the more likely she will become addicted.

Signs of marijuana use

Recognizing the signs of drug use is the first step in getting help for your child, but some signs are vague. Consider marijuana or other drug use if your child

What you can do

Take these steps to help prevent your child from becoming interested in using marijuana or other drugs.

The information contained in this publication should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.