Purpose of review: Despite widespread marijuana use among adolescents, accurate information on known health effects is poorly disseminated to clinicians and their patients. Amidst rapidly evolving drug policy in the United States and elsewhere, it is imperative that providers understand the short-term and long-term consequences of marijuana use.
Recent findings: Research on regular marijuana use highlights a unique susceptibility of the developing adolescent brain to adverse neurocognitive and psychiatric outcomes. Although studies have not firmly established causality, onset of regular marijuana use in adolescence is associated with later decline in cognitive function, as well as with adult onset of psychosis and anxiety. Educational and employment outcomes may be poorer among regular marijuana-using adolescents. A number of other adverse respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine and gastrointestinal associations with regular marijuana use have also been established. Good screening tools and promising brief intervention and behavioral treatment programs are available to clinicians, who are in a position to identify problematic marijuana use among adolescents.
Summary: A common misperception among youth is that marijuana use is without harm. However, adolescent marijuana use may have measurable, durable, and potentially irreversible effects on later cognitive function and mental health.