Cannabis and the Developing Adolescent Brain.

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Purpose of review: This review summarizes (1) recent trends in delta-9-tetrahydrocannabionol [THC] and cannabidiol (CBD) content in cannabis products, (2) neurobiological correlates of cannabis use on the developing adolescent brain, (3) effects of cannabis on psychiatric symptoms and daily functioning in youth (i.e., academic performance, cognition, sleep and driving), (4) cannabis products used to relieve or treat medical issues in youth, and (5) available treatments for cannabis use disorder in adolescence.

Recent findings: Despite marked increases in THC content and availability of cannabis, there has been a decline in perceived risk and an increase in use of THC extract products among youth in the United States. The primary psychiatric symptoms associated with cannabis use in youth are increased risk for addiction, depressive, and psychotic symptoms. Cannabis alters endocannabinoid system function which plays a central role in modulating the neurodevelopment of reward and stress systems. To date, few studies have examined neurobiological mechanisms underlying the psychiatric sequalae of cannabis exposure in youth. Adolescent cannabis exposure results in impaired cognition, sleep, and driving ability. There are very limited FDA-approved cannabinoid medications, none of them supporting their use for the treatment of psychiatric symptoms. Behavioral therapies are currently the mainstay of treating cannabis misuse, with no pharmacotherapies currently approved by the FDA for cannabis use disorder in youth.

Summary: Here, we summarize the most up-to-date knowledge on the neurobiological psychiatric, and daily function effects of the most commonly used cannabinoids, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). We then review FDA approved medical use of cannabinoid treatments as well as pharmacological and psychological treatments for cannabis use disorder in youth. Our current understanding of the effects of cannabis on the developing brain and treatments for cannabis misuse in youth remain limited. Future research aimed at examining the neurobiological effects of cannabis, with objective measures of exposure, over the course of pediatric development and in relation to psychiatric symptoms are needed.

Keywords: Adolescence; cannabidiol (CBD); cannabis; cannabis use disorder; delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); neurodevelopment.

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