The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) has released a policy statement that opposes efforts to legalize marijuana.
AACAP supports efforts to increase awareness of marijuana’s effects on adolescents and improve access to evidence-based treatment, rather than emphasis on criminal charges, for adolescents with cannabis use disorder. AACAP also urges careful monitoring of the effects of marijuana-related policy changes on child and adolescent mental health. AACAP hopes that efforts such as these “may help with the prevention of teen marijuana use during a critical period of ongoing brain maturation,” according to a press release.
According to Kevin Gray, MD, co-chair AACAP’s Substance Abuse Committee, “Often lost in the discussion on marijuana are the concerning potential implications of policy changes on children and adolescents, who are particularly vulnerable to marijuana’s adverse effects.” Gray continued, “With this in mind, AACAP felt it was critically important to communicate our organization’s position, given our role as advocates for child and adolescent mental health.”
AACAP is focused on the specific issue of marijuana use in adolescence because of research indicating teens are now more likely to use marijuana than tobacco, with teen marijuana use at its highest in 30 years. Significant early use is said to be associated with increased incidence and worsened course of psychotic, mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders that can lead to long-term problems across the lifespan.