Cannabis is the illicit drug most likely to be used by U.S. teens. There is evidence suggesting that more than 40 percent of 12th graders reported having used it once in their lifetime. With the drug considered illegal by the federal government, the use is limited to medicinal purposes, and here’s what we know about its effectiveness.
Cannabis affects people differently as they age. The recent limited findings suggest that the older a person is, the safer it is to consume cannabis. But what about teens – can they become addicted? Can medicinal cannabis help young patients with severe illnesses like cancer and epilepsy?
Let’s answer these questions in this article.
Use of Medicinal Cannabis in Children
The debate about the use of cannabis for medical purposes in children has been initiated only recently thanks to several reports describing its beneficial effect on epilepsy patients. One of the most recent ones involved Billy Caldwell, 11, who has been suffering from severe epilepsy. He obtained the first ever NHS prescription for medical marijuana in California, where it’s legal, because he could not do it in Northern Ireland.
According to Billy’s parents, the results of the oil-based medicine that is especially rich in cannabidiol (CBD) was “incredible,” and they had no choice but to fly to the U.S. and get it to help their son. A similar drug, oral cannabis oil, has been used by Mykayla Comstock, 7, who was diagnosed with leukemia. Her mother says that the drug helped Mykayla to go into cancer remission.
Short terms effect of cannabis use such as increased appetite and decreased depression helped a 16-year-old Lauren Scott, who has been fighting undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer. After trying many drugs, she turned to CBD-rich oil as well, and found it effective to manage the pain and improve mood.
At this point, it is clear that the states which legalized medicinal cannabis allow various patients to treat their diseases and conditions. But what about addiction?
Is It Possible to Become Addicted?
The answer to this question once again emphasizes the need for a serious approach. Indeed, it is possible for teens to become addicted to cannabis. In fact, the data presented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggested that about 9 percent of cannabis users become addicted but the percentage increases among those who begin young (to about 17 percent).
This problem is also exacerbated by the fact that no medications are currently available to treat cannabis addiction. There are only some easing the withdrawal and blocking its intoxicating effects. The scientists exploring this issue have produced some limited studies, but it’s already possible to make some preliminary conclusions.
What Does the Science Say?
A heavy use of cannabis presents a number of problems for adolescents. For example, a study published last year in Development and Psychopathology suggested that those smoking cannabis as early as 14 perform poorer on some cognitive tests and drop out of school at a higher rate.
However, the researchers explained these results by saying that “the effects of cannabis use on verbal intelligence are explained not by neurotoxic effects on the brain but rather by a possible social mechanism.” This mechanism suggested that teens using cannabis heavily are less likely to attend school, which in turn has an impact on their ability to develop verbal intelligence.
What Should You Do if Teen Smokes Cannabis
Whatever you do, avoid severe punishment because this way you’re setting them up to become regular smokers. The best way to approach this problem is to talk openly about the problem and try to establish a bond of trust. After that, it’s all about consistent monitoring.
While some evidence suggests that cannabis may be effective for relieving epilepsy and cancer symptoms, its efficacy should be carefully evaluated over the long-term. At this point, it is clear that cannabis may have significant adverse effects, including addiction, so neglecting the risks is certainly a bad idea.