Medical Marijuana Misleads Kids Into Thinking It’s Safe

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Marijuana from leaf to prescription bottle image

I was at a meeting for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Canadian Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry in Toronto today, and went to the open meeting of the Committee on Substance Abuse and Addiction. A lively discussion ensued about “Medical Marijuana”. While there are many people who feel MJ should be legalized, we have to consider the message it will send to our kids.

One member of the Committee commented that all medicines of abuse have some therapeutic component. Opioids like Percocet and Vicodin are great for pain. Amphetamines can be great for Attention Deficit Disorder. Even alcohol can be used to reduce alcohol withdrawal seizures, or ketamine used in some countries for depression that does not respond to traditional anitdepressants. Marijuana has been known to reduce nausea in cancer patients, in patients with glaucoma, and marinol, a synthetic MJ used in some patients with Alzheimers to reduce anxiety and stimulate appetite.

But just the idea that marijuana supporters have been able to inculcate the word medical and attach it to marijuana is a concern. In my program I have many, many kids who do not think weed is a problem. Even though it has affected their grades at school, their relationships with their family, perhaps got them in trouble with the law, they do not see weed as a dangerous drug. Earlier I wrote a blog about “it’s just weed”, highlighting how the use of MJ has now surpassed the use of tobacco because kids do not see it as dangerous. Applying the term “medical” marijuana perpetuates and reinforces this unfortunate view.

There may be a place for the use of Marijuana, but we are on the brink of creating another danger for our kids to navigate. We have this problem with prescription drugs already. Shouldn’t we learn from this current event? Just because you cannot overdose and die from weed does not mean it is not addictive and dangerous to the developing brain. I see kids on heroin and opioids who come to my program in pain and agonizing withdrawal, just wanting to stop. Each of them started with weed. And they tell this to their buddies in the program who say, well that’s you and not me. And to them my kids in opioid withdrawal say, that’s just what I said.

Drugs should be legalised billboardThe debate in Toronto is the debate throughout the US. We should have it. But we should let our kids know that we adults are not endorsing the capricious use of marijuana. Making it medicinal is not the same thing as saying it is safe. Every effort must be made to let this be known to our kids. Or we are to be held responsible for perpetuating the mythology that it is “just” weed.