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Legalized marijuana stirs old debate about possible links to mental illness

Posted at 11:44 PM, Jan 23, 2019

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Legal marijuana changed the landscape of Las Vegas and how some parents talk about pot with their kids.

“Since the marijuana laws changed,” said mother, Nicole Sharp. “I have had that conversation with my kids asking me to have an edible or smoke weed back like when I would have 30 years ago when I was a kid."

Sharp is a mother of three. She says the conversation about marijuana these days is similar to how parents used to talk about alcohol.

But a new book called Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence by Alex Berenson has reignited an old debate about whether pot triggers certain mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

"One of my children has been treated for anxiety disorders and bipolar. I'm surprised that I hadn't heard more about it,” Sharp said.

Dr. Jason Castillo is a psychiatrist and the Medical Director at Ignite Teen Treatment Center in Las Vegas.

“Unfortunately up until this point, those have been largely anecdotal and based on sometimes flawed science. But this is changing, and we are investing a lot in actual cannabis research. The National Institute of Health is putting a lot of money toward the contribution of cannabis to public health," Dr. Castillo said.

This is including a $300 million project studying how kids' brains are affected by drugs including marijuana.

But for now, Dr. Castillo had this to say about any link between pot and mental illness: "The number one risk factor for developing schizophrenia is a family history of this."

As the debate continues, Dr. Castillo said while the brain is still developing he recommends no one under 25 use any intoxicating substance.

"It is a drug whether it's a legal drug or not, “Sharp said. “I don't let my children decide how much ibuprofen they are going to take or cold medicine they want to take when they get sick. I'm not going to give them that option when they are underage of deciding to medicate or recreate."