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New Warning about Medical Marijuana for Teens

According to a Mayo Clinic psychiatrist writing for the Post-Bulletin, a new warning about medical marijuana shows the drug isn’t as safe as some have said. The drug should be avoided by teens who might otherwise be prescribed the drug to treat pain.

One indication for marijuana use in states where cannabis is legal is for chronic pain. Patients report they are able to reduce or eliminate their prescription opiate use while on weed, and the safety profile for adults is considered much better than for pain pills. Marijuana is also thought to be less addictive. However, that doesn’t mean the drug is without side effects.

Marijuana use in teenagers is already controversial, since the human brain isn’t fully developed until the early twenties. In the Mayo report, three regular users of marijuana, all still in high-school, were evaluated at the institution’s pediatric pain clinic. The students reported that, while using pot, their pain actually worsened. They also reported reduced function and withdrawal from social interactions.

Early use – before age 16 – has already been linked to increased risk of impairment of brain function, but this is the first time a reputable institution has reported problems when treating chronic pain.

While the report makes no claims that this phenomenon is widespread or necessarily will happen with any teen using the drug, it does serve as a warning for doctors to be on the lookout. Physicians may wish to inquire about marijuana use or test for the presence of the drug in patients who are both teenagers and who are being treated for pain.

This unexpected finding also points out a problem with medical marijuana therapy – a lack of peer reviewed, clinically based research into possible side effects or adverse reactions. The surprising result – that cannabis can actually increase pain experienced in some users – makes one wonder what else remains to be discovered.


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