The effects of cannabis smoke on children — or any other method of consumption — can be devastating to their short-term and long-term mental and physical health.
The science is still not settled on the short and long-term health benefits and side effects of cannabis use in adults. This means you should act with serious caution when dealing with cannabis and children, as the effects of second hand cannabis smoke on toddlers and children remains uncertain.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the effects of cannabis smoke and ingestion on children, and what to do when the unfortunate happens.
Effects Of Cannabis Smoke On Children
While the effects of cannabis smoke on children aren’t conclusively known, it can be reasonably assumed that the common effects of inhaling or ingesting cannabis apply to children as they do to adolescents and adults.
In the short-term, that means:
- trouble thinking and problem-solving
- problems with memory and learning
- loss of coordination
- distorted perception
- an increased appetite
- feeling lightheaded or drowsy
Except for one major difference:
The effects of cannabis, like alcohol, are greatly exaggerated in children because of their smaller size and underdeveloped immune systems.
Cannabis intoxication in children needs to be taken very seriously.
With that said, the number one way children overdose on cannabis is through edibles — marijuana combined with food. This is because marijuana edibles can have a stronger and more prolonged effect, especially in children under the age of 12 years old.
Many young children who consume marijuana edibles require hospital admission due to the severity of their symptoms.
What to Do if Your Child Inhales or Ingests Cannabis?
To test for an overdose of marijuana, hospitals will take a urine sample — also known as a toxicology screen — or perform bloodwork to test for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
If your child accidentally ingests marijuana, there are 3 things you should do:
- If the child is having trouble breathing or is unconscious, call emergency services right away.
- If there is no perceivable emergency, call your primary physician for medical advice.
- Make sure your child is not at risk of falling due to the effects of marijuana intoxication.
What Are the Neurological Effects Of Cannabis On Children
The long-term effects of cannabis on children are unknown at this time.
With that said, it’s reasonable to assume that the impacts of marijuana on a developing brain, especially pre-teens, is undesirable at best and permanently harmful at worst.
If you’re worried about the effects of second hand cannabis smoke on your toddlers and children, then it’s best to avoid consuming cannabis in their physical presence, or refrain from cannabis consumption altogether.
As we’ll see in the research on cannabis effects on teens, in general, young people of legal age should not be exposed to cannabis without knowing the unique risks they face.
Effects Of Cannabis On Teens
If you haven’t heard, the common refrain is that the human brain continues to develop well into our 20’s — with the science saying 25 years of age.
Because of this, the science of what long-term impacts cannabis consumption has on teenagers into adulthood is growing in importance. Especially with more and more countries choosing to legalize the substance.
The thinking behind cannabis and its influence on developing minds is this:
When THC from an outside source (exogenous) in the form of marijuana enters a developing teen’s system, it floods their cannabinoid receptors at a far greater rate than the natural THC produced from within (endogenous) the body.
Exogenous THC can overwhelm an underdeveloped endocannabinoid system as well as create toxic changes to the neurons involved in this entire process.
What this spells out for long-term neurological effects is the possibility of:
Lower IQ outcomes into adulthood. The longer the cannabis use throughout adolescence, the greater the IQ drop. The research on this is still very inconclusive.
An increase in mood disorders especially in individuals who may already be vulnerable to major depressive episodes.
The possibility of acute psychosis, even without a history of prior mental illness. Symptoms like depersonalization, de-realization, dream-like euphoria, disorientation, delusions, hallucinations and paranoid ideation have been reported.
It is very important to note that the harsher long-term effects of psychosis are not unique to adolescents and that the absolute risk for developing psychosis is low. It is, however, increased by 40% in individuals who have used cannabis during their lifetime.
Regarding adults with schizophrenia or with a family history of the disease, the risk of developing this illness is doubled in heavy cannabis users. The baseline risk is 1% of the adult population for context. Adolescents at risk or with a family history of schizophrenia should consult a professional before using cannabis.
It needs to be reinforced that the scientific community still doesn’t understand the short or long-term consequences of cannabis use among adults or teens.
What the science is pointing towards is that:
“the developing brain is especially sensitive to the negative consequences of cannabis use. Canadian youth are at significant risk for developing CUD and, possibly, for doubling their risk of having a psychotic illness.“
It stands to reason that the negative health effects across the board are exaggerated in children. From developmental issues, mood disorders, and lower lifetime achievement potential, it’s better to err on the side of caution when discussing the relationship between cannabis smoke or ingestion and children.