Posted by: David A. Gross, MD | July 17, 2012

Marijuana Effects on the Teenage Brain: “Marijuana Madness” – Get Help in South Florida


“Marijuana Madness – A Substance Induced Mood Disorder”

I decided to write this piece after seeing yet another young patient suffering from a psychotic state directly related to regular use of marijuana (MJ). To see a capable, bright young person become so deeply disturbed because of marijuana effects is troubling to say the least. This individual had lost complete contact with reality and had to withdraw from his life to the safety of his family. Fortunately, many cases recover but some do not. Recovery can be a slow protracted process. Families are stressed and marriages suffer.

What of the individuals who use MJ regularly but don’t evidence substance induced mood disorders or such extreme marijuana effects as those who become psychotic?  The mental state changes of MJ are subtle and persistent. There has been concern about MJ-induced loss of motivation and drive.  Educationally, MJ use can impair new learning and data retrieval. Additionally, there has been increased attention to the role that MJ plays in motor vehicle accidents. 

Unfortunately, since the 1970’s, there has been an active and well-funded movement to create a powerful spin on the safe use of MJ and other illicit drugs. They have been the core proponents of the medical use of MJ and the legalization of illicit drugs. They disguise their intent under the banner of “harm reduction” strongly asserting that if drug abuse is inevitable why not help our children learn how to use drugs safely. As parents, our goal has always to keep our children safe and healthy. But this approach to harm reduction surrenders to bad things happening to our children. This would be like teaching our young drivers to learn how to safely crash their cars because we assume that sooner or later they will have an accident.

The “medical use” of MJ is just as troubling. I don’t mean to suggest that there may be medical indications for the active ingredients sound in the MJ plant.  The cannabinoids are currently being investigated as the most important active constituents of MJ. There are over 60 cannabinoids discovered in MJ and we now know that there are natural cannabinoids present in our bodies and brains along with natural cannabinoid receptors (the cellular constituents that the cannabinoids interact with). However, the rapid and extraordinary high levels of cannabinoids produced by the inhalation of the combustion of the MJ plant results in pathological levels resulting in the marijuana high and other problematic marijuana side effects. Also troubling is the potency of the MJ currently being sold and distributed.  Genetic engineering has resulted in a logarithmic increase in potency. Electronic devices like vaporizers further intensify the amount of MJ inhaled and increase marijuana effects.

As a practicing medical doctor I have great reservations about the trend in our country to regulate the medical use of MJ.  Medical doctors historically provide treatments that have been developed through comprehensive studies utilizing scientifically based clinical trials under the auspices of the Food and Drug Association. Europe’s physicians have a similar system.  Our pharmaceuticals have to pass rigorous safety and effectiveness guidelines.  Our patients put their faith and trust in this science.  This is not the case with medical MJ use.  There is no dosage and quality control or study. Sure, there are various brands of MJ as there are various types of wine or beer.  It seems to me that at the end of the day, the “medical MJ” movement is a way to rationalize its ongoing abuse.

On a more positive note, the next decade will witness the medical scientific introduction of a variety of cannabinoid containing medications that will be carefully developed to address medical conditions that cause pain, anxiety, panic, depression, anorexia, nausea and fatigue. I personally look forward to the controlled and safe use of medical cannabinoids.  Historically, medicine has learned a lot from plant based products, digitalis codeine, ephedrine and L dopa as examples.

I previously wrote about our teenagers like puppy dogs and the need to protect them from their immature brains. Because our teenagers do not have the brain controls needed to protect them from peer pressure that fosters drug abuse and other risk-based endeavors, we need to engage our teenagers in educating them about marijuana effects and dangers.  Furthermore, the regular use of in-home urine drug testing for MJ is an advisable and valuable tool during the turbulent teenage years. Education, clear-cut guidelines and utilizing drug testing represents true reduction of harm.

David A. Gross, MD, DLFAPA

For more information about substance induced mood disorders or marijuana effects on the teenage brain, contact Dr. David A. Gross in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1281 or email Dr. Gross today.



  1. Reblogged this on Sober Force of Palm Beach.

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