Dr. Pat Consults: Pot Use in Adolescents — Is It Safe?

Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen is a collaborative physician who writes a weekly “Medical Monday” column for Women’s Voices for Change. (Search our archives for her posts, calling on the expertise of medical specialists, on topics from angiography to vulvar melanoma.)

This week, Dr. Pat asks Megan Riddle, M.D., Ph.D., the psychiatry chief resident at the University of Washington and a graduate of the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program, for answers to a mother’s questions on marijuana’s effect on physical and mental health. Dr. Riddle is a member of Women’s Voices’ Medical Advisory Board.


Dear Dr. Pat:

When I was in college in the ’80s  almost everyone I knew smoked pot, some a little and some a lot. I tried it once and it made me feel a bit paranoid and anxious … not chilled out and full of laughter. My husband and I have made a real effort to control all substance use in our family life.  We both grew up in families where depression and alcoholism were rife and we did not want this for our family. Many of the friends of our teenage children are now smoking “weed”and their parents feel that it is “safer than alcohol and tobacco use” and are choosing to look the other way. As a result of our ban on pot our 17-year-old son is feeling a bit isolated from his peer group.  Are my concerns about marijuana use by adolescents old-fashioned or well founded?  I plan to share your answer with my friends and children.



Dear Marci,

You clearly have some hard-earned respect for any substance that could alter brain biochemistry, induce the family weakness for depression or cause addiction. Your question is a very timely one since many states are considering the legalization of marijuana in some form. The decision to provide marijuana or one of its components for medical treatment is quite different from easy access to pot by those who are uninformed about its impact on brain function, other health issues, its potential for addiction … and many of these potential users are adolescents

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Its use is widespread among young people. In 2015, more than 11 million young adults ages 17 to 25 had used marijuana over the previous year. And the number of young people who believe marijuana use is risky is decreasing. ( Johnston L, O’Malley P, Miech R, Bachman J, Schulenberg J. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use: 1975-2015: Overview: Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2015).

I have asked Dr. Megan Riddle to discuss your concerns about the impact of marijuana use in adolescent and young adults. Thank you for sharing your questions with many of our readers who are likely to have similar concerns.

Dr. Pat

Start the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.