Adolescents and teenagers are prone to alcohol and drug use
February 13, 2019  | 

Recreational Marijuana Initiative Position of the MGH/MGHfC

We endorse allowing academic medical centers to study the effects of marijuana and its active constituents and metabolites on medical or psychiatric conditions and/or physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive safety in children.


We do not endorse the recreational use of marijuana at any age because of the potential downstream effects on children:

  1. The increase in the availability of marijuana and the change in the perception of harm may lead to an earlier-onset and increased rate of marijuana use in children
  2. There are known structural and functional brain changes associated with early-onset marijuana use in children with potential persistent effects into adulthood
  3. Similarly, there are transient and persistent neuropsychological effects of marijuana use in children with persistent effects into adulthood
  4. The addictive potential of marijuana may drive marijuana and other substance use disorders in children. This is of particular concern in that one-half of substance use disorders onset in adolescence; and adolescent-onset substance use disorders predict a more pernicious and longer course of these disorders in adults.
  5. There are well known deleterious effects of marijuana on driving performance, morbidity, and mortality—with specific concerns on the impact on adolescents. Motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of death in young people.
  6. An increased availability of marijuana products (e.g. edibles such as candied marijuana derivatives) appears to be fueling marijuana poisonings in children. “All cause” drug related poisonings (including overdoses) are the leading cause of death in young people.
  7. Marijuana concentrates with higher tetrahydrocannibinol levels have been associated with increased risk for short-term anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis; as well as the onset of long term psychotic illness (e.g. schizophrenia) in vulnerable individuals.



Experts on substance use disorders in children; and marijuana use disorders in particular affiliated with MGHfC


Timothy Wilens, M.D.-Chief, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Co-Director, Center for Addiction Medicine MGH/MGHfC. Expertise on general issues of medical marijuana, effects of marijuana on executive functioning in adolescents, medical issues related to marijuana, ADHD and marijuana.

Amy Yule MD-Board certified in Adult, Child/Adolescent, Addiction Psychiatry; Medical Director of the Addiction Recovery Management Service (young person’s substance use disorder treatment center) of MGH/MGHfC. Expertise clinically on treating marijuana use disorders in children.

James McKowen PhD – Psychologist; Addictionologist, Pediatric Neuropsychologist. Clinical Director of the Addiction Recovery Management Service of MGH/MGHfC. Expertise on family dynamics, clinical ramifications, and treatment of young people with marijuana use disorders.

Martha Kane, Ph.D. – Senior Psychologist; Addictionologist, Child Psychiatrist. Associate Director of the MGH Strategic Plan for Substance Use Disorders. Expertise on family dynamics, clinical ramifications, engagement and retention strategies, parent training, and general treatment issues for young people with marijuana use disorders.

Staci Gruber, Ph.D.-Assoc Professor HMS; multiple studies on the functional and structural effects of marijuana on young people. Also expert on the various forms of marijuana and the specific constituents effects on outcome. McLean Hospital (collaborates with MGH/MGHfC)

Jodi Gilman, Ph.D. – NIH recipient to study effects of marijuana. MGH/MGHfC. Expertise in structural brain changes associated with early marijuana use, effects of marijuana on motivation (and vice versa).

Randi Schuster, PhD. – Fellow who studies the impact of marijuana on working memory, motivation, and is working on an intervention for marijuana use in ADHD.

Eden Evins, M.D. – Assoc Professor; Co’Director of the Center for Addiction Medicine (MGH)- NIH/PCORI recipient to study Addictions. Mentors Jodi Gilman & Randi Schuster (above) on brain effects of marijuana.

John Kelly, Ph.D. – Assoc Director of the Center for Addiction Medicine, Assoc Professor of Psychiatry; Director of the Recovery Institute. Expert on general issues related to public policy & substance use disorders, use of psychotherapies for substance use disorders (including marijuana use disorders), use of self help groups