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Report: Depressed teens, marijuana a dangerous mix

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  • NEW: Marijuana has "increased tenfold in potency since 1960s," expert says
  • More teens use marijuana than all other illegal drugs combined
  • Teenagers who self-medicate depression with pot can compound their illnesses
  • Marijuana usage by teens has dropped by 25 percent in the past seven years
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Teenagers who use marijuana put themselves at higher risks for serious mental health problems, including worsening depression, schizophrenia, anxiety and suicide, according to a new White House report.

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The report said more teens use marijuana than all other illegal drugs combined.

The goal is to "correct the blind spot we've had in our society that's caused more young people to suffer," Director of National Drug Control Policy John Walters said.

"The short message is: Marijuana's not safe."

Although the report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy notes that use of the drug among teenagers has dropped by 25 percent in the past seven years, it emphasizes that more teens use marijuana than all other illegal drugs combined.

That use can have serious consequences, according to the report. Teenagers who smoke marijuana to self-medicate can compound their depression, the report said.

"The benign quality of marijuana, which has been an assumption since the '60s, is now seriously questioned by researchers, scientists and doctors," Larry Greenhill, president-elect of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said at a news conference. Video Watch addiction expert explain report »

However, Greenhill added, "That's possibly due to the fact that the marijuana available to teenagers in this country has increased tenfold in potency since the 1960s."

Depressed teens are more than twice as likely as others to abuse or become dependent on marijuana, it said. And teenagers who use marijuana more than at least once a month are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than teenagers who do not use the drug, it said.

"It's time we stop denying and we stop normalizing what we now know to be pathology and [a] serious potential medical issue," said Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction expert.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, echoed his remarks. Marijuana is "not going to help anything," she said. "It will make life much worse."

Teenage girls are especially at risk, the report said.

"Girls who smoke marijuana daily are significantly more likely to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety: Their odds are more than five times higher than those of girls who do not smoke marijuana," it said.

"Marijuana is not the answer. Too many young people are making a bad situation worse by using marijuana in a misguided effort to relieve their symptoms of depression," said John P. Walters, director of national drug control policy, in a written statement.

The report is titled "Teen Marijuana Use Worsens Depression: An Analysis of Recent Data Shows 'Self-Medicating' Could Actually Make Things Worse."

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Parents who believe that their teenagers are using marijuana "should not dismiss changes in their teen's behavior as a 'phase,' " the report said.

"It's been shown that parents who make an effort to understand the pressures and influences on young people are more likely to keep their teen healthy and drug-free."

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