A new report published in the journal of Pediatrics on Monday sends a strong message to parents: You are role models for your children, and actions speak louder than words. So if you use marijuana in front of your teens, they are more likely to use it themselves, regardless of whether you tell them not to.
Many parents use the drug and think it’s OK for their kids, but “we would rather not mess around with the developing brain,” said Dr. Seth Ammerman, one of authors of the report.
The adolescent brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex areas that control judgment and decision-making, is not fully developed until the early 20s, raising questions about how any substance use may affect the developing brain.
“Marijuana is not a benign drug, especially for teens. Their brains are still developing, and marijuana can cause abnormal and unhealthy changes,” said Ammerman in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.
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 American Academy of Pediatrics is urging doctors to protect children from the harms of marijuana as the nation becomes increasingly tolerant of the drug’s use. Pediatricians are in an influential position to counteract the perception of teenage marijuana use as benign and help spread the word of the dangers.
Parents who use marijuana may not fully realize the problems that their own use may present for their children’s health; the effect that their modeling of recreational use may have on their child, adolescent or young adult; or the risks of ingestion and/or secondhand smoke. That’s why the office setting provides an excellent opportunity for education and counseling to prevent marijuana use as well as to implement brief interventions and referrals if needed.