WASHINGTON — The federal government on Thursday issued an advisory warning against marijuana use in teenagers and pregnant women, cautioning that the drug can impact brain development and is associated with future alcohol and opioid addiction.
“No amount of marijuana use during pregnancy or adolescence is safe,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams at a press conference.
Pregnant women and young people, however, are growing more likely to use marijuana and are largely unfamiliar with the risks, said health secretary Alex Azar. Increased marijuana use has also been increasingly linked to “risks like anxiety, agitation, paranoia and psychosis,” the department said.
Increasingly potent marijuana plants — and new delivery forms like edibles and waxes or liquids that can be consumed using vape products — mean that marijuana use results in more exposure to THC, its psychoactive compound, than ever, officials said.
“As I like to say, this ain’t your mother’s marijuana,” Adams said at a press conference.
While the medical community is largely uniform in its view that marijuana use by pregnant women or adolescents carries associated risks, the announcement comes amid a murkier landscape on marijuana and its components.
The Food and Drug Administration this year has worked to better regulate supplements containing CBD, a non-psychoactive compound within marijuana. The agency also approved a CBD-based drug last year as a treatment for seizures.
Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and 11 states have legalized its use recreationally, despite the administration’s opposition.
“There is no approved, safe, or effective use of marijuana to treat any medical condition,” said Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health.
Azar, however, acknowledged the need for additional marijuana research, including into potential benefits. Earlier this week, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it would move toward allowing more manufacturers to grow marijuana for research purposes — long a point of contention between some law enforcement and public health circles.
The Public Health Service also announced Thursday that it would use a recent $100,000 donation from President Trump, who donates his salary each quarter, to fund a digital ad campaign to build awareness for the advisory.
Adams’ announcement is the latest in a string of high-profile public health advisories. In December, he warned against “the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.” In 2017, Adams encouraged everyday Americans to carry naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdose, amid a wave of drug deaths.
It also echoes a surgeon general’s advisory from 1982, when Dr. C. Everett Coop warned against marijuana use for reasons that included its impact on prenatal development.