Marijuana Not Recommended for Child Behavioral Disorders

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Marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of developmental or behavioral problems in children, according to a review in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Although medical marijuana studies are becoming more common, there are very few studies that suggest the drug has a positive effect on children with developmental or behavioral disorders. On the other hand, there is significant evidence that regular marijuana use has negative effects on the developing brains of children and teenagers.

Marijuana policy in the United States has been quickly changing, and the drug has become legal for medical use in many states and recreational use in others. With this new legislation, patients and families are curious to see if medical marijuana could help their conditions, including developmental and behavioral problems in children, which prompted the researchers to conduct their review.

The review reports that long-term, regular cannabis use by adolescents has been associated with increased risks of addiction, major depression, anxiety disorders, and psychotic thinking. It has also been linked to a persistent decline in intelligence quotient. Additionally, adolescents with developmental and behavioral disorders are at risk for early substance abuse, creating another risk factor.

The researchers note that there is currently no data on the safety, efficacy, or tolerability for cannabis as a treatment for childhood developmental or behavioral disorders. The researchers believe that future research should focus on cannabidiols rather than plant forms of medical marijuana, but much more research must be done before clinicians should consider prescribing cannabis to adolescents.

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Marijuana Not Recommended for Child Behavioral Disorders

As medical marijuana becomes increasingly accepted, there is growing interest in its use for children and adolescents with developmental and behavioral problems such as autism spectrum disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a review in the February Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, the official journal of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

That's despite a lack of studies showing any clinical benefit of cannabis for young patients with these disorders -- whereas evidence strongly suggests harmful effects of regular marijuana use in the developing brain. Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, John R. Knight, MD, and Sion Kim Harris, PhD of Boston Children's Hospital write, "Given the current scarcity of data, cannabis cannot be safely recommended for the treatment of developmental or behavioral disorders at this time."

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