01:39 - Source: CNN
Your brain on marijuana

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American Academy of Pediatrics issues new guidelines for talking to teens about marijuana

Parents can tell their teens that marijuana is not a benign drug, it says

This is an update to a story first published in May 2015.

CNN —  

My kids are in elementary school, a little young for the “weed talk,” but I wonder whether the fact that recreational pot use is now legal in a number of states will complicate things once we start having those conversations.

Sue Scheff, a parent advocate who works with children in at-risk communities, says she’s heard from plenty of kids who say, “Well, it’s legal, so it must be OK.”

“We already have the messaging problem,” said Scheff, author of “Wit’s End: Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen.”

“So we need to come up with a new way to discuss it … because the kids are tuning us out.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics is weighing in, issuing new guidelines this week for doctors and parents to talk to teens about the risks of using marijuana. Changes in the legal status of marijuana may lower teen perceptions of the risk and lead more to start smoking pot, the organization said in a statement.

It points to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (PDF), which found a decrease in the percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who said they believe there is a “great risk” in smoking marijuana once a month or one to two times per week.

Pediatricians “are in an influential position to counteract the perception of teenage marijuana use as benign,” it said in the update to its 2004 guidelines.

The new recommendations include calling for doctors to screen adolescents and preteens for marijuana use. Doctors can then try to determine whether teens who are using marijuana regularly or heavily have a substance abuse disorder and would benefit from treatment, including counseling and medication.

Parents can tell their teens that marijuana is not a benign drug: It can cause abnormal brain development and impact memory, concentration and executive functioning skills, the recommendations said.

Parents should also realize that they are role models for their children and that their actions speak louder than words.

“So if you use marijuana in front of your teens, they are more likely to use it themselves, regardless of whether you tell them not to,” the statement said.