Is there a link between a public health crisis, developing brains, and cannabis?

A Colorado non profit organization and pain medicine specialist weigh in
KKTV 11 News this Morning
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 8:53 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - In Nov. 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana for individuals over the age of 21.

According to a 2018 article from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, since the legalization at that time, marijuana use for adults increased slightly and stayed about the same for kids.

However, according to Dr. Ken Finn, a Pain Medicine Specialist in Colorado Springs with more than 33 years of experience in the medical field, we are now in the middle of a multi factorial mental health crisis with youth substance abuse, particularly cannabis, affecting developing brains.

“I think the medical literature is pretty clear that during the pandemic kids were not in school, they were isolated, they tend to use substances in isolation, particularly cannabis,” explained Finn.

The CDC states cannabis use before the age of 18 can permanently affect how the brain builds connection with attention, memory and learning.

Adding to that, a study published by The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that cannabis use was associated with increased risks of suicidal ideations, suicide plans, and suicide attempts.

“The science and data are all there. For example, here in Colorado marijuana is the most prevalent substance found in completed teen suicide,” said Finn adding that just before and after the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, there was a spike in teens going to the emergency room. “70% of which had psychiatric issues like suicidal ideation and behavior, panic attack, depression.”

“To me, we’re in a public health crisis. I have families calling me every day in a crisis, ‘my teen, my child, my young adult is addicted to marijuana. It’s making them psychotic. They’re sick, they’re vomiting, and they’re arguing with me that it’s natural, that’s it’s medicine, and we don’t know what to do,’” said Aubree Adams, Director of Every Brain Matters, a non profit organization in Colorado that claims to offer community support based on science and lived experiences in response to the expanding drug culture in developing minds.

“Of all the substances that can convert to psychosis, cannabis far out scripts any other substance including alcohol and methamphetamine, and cocaine, and other illicit substances,” stated Finn. “The conversion rate is much higher, particularly in this day and age of high potency marijuana. Even the European data says anything more than 10% THC, you have a five-fold increase of first episode psychosis. 10% TCH in Colorado is very weak.”

Adams with Every Brain Matters believes it’s easier for young adults to access discrete THC products. “More teens are using the legal products that are more highly concentrated in THC that come in fast delivery systems like vapes, which provides a quick hit to the brain of THC. The THC that is so much more concentrated and so much more accessible is literally hijacking our children’s brains, embedding the disease of addiction.”

Adams said she’s expierenced first-hand the affects THC can have on the brain when her own son attempted suicide. “I still have not recovered from that moment and that was back in 2015.”

Now, Adams is working to educate other parents on the harmful side effects THC has on developing brains and how it can impact young adults.

She encourages anyone to reach out if they have questions.


Every Brain Matters

Parents Opposed to Pot

Johnny’s Ambassador

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline