At a time when more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for either medical or recreational use, the U.S. surgeon general says no amount of the drug is safe for teens, young adults and pregnant women.
“While the perceived harm of marijuana is decreasing, the scary truth is that the actual potential for harm is increasing,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday during a press conference to announce the new advisory.
Surveys show that an increasing number of adolescents and pregnant women use the drug, which can be eaten, smoked or vaped.
But the surgeon general told NPR in an interview that many people are not aware of just how potent the drug can be.
“This ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” he said. The THC concentration in marijuana plants has increased threefold between 1995 and 2014, according to the report, and concentrated products can contain up to 75% THC.
“The higher the THC delivery, the higher the risk,” Adams said.
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Young people who regularly use marijuana are “more likely to show a decline in IQ and school performance [and] are more apt to miss classes,” Adams said. And frequent use of the drug can also impair a child’s attention, memory and decision-making.
In addition, it can be habit-forming.
“Nearly 1 in 5 people who begin marijuana use during adolescence become addicted,” Adams said. “That’s scary to me as the dad of a 15-, a 13- and a 9-year-old.”
Symptoms of marijuana dependency include “irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and/or various forms of physical discomfort that peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And marijuana becomes addictive “when the person cannot