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Lankford Takes On Children’s Mental Health During Senate Hearing

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Protecting Youth Mental Health: Part I – An Advisory and Call to Action,” with US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy testifying. Lankford focused the impacts of marijuana consumption and how it ties to mental health in youth and gender dysphoria. 

The Surgeon General’s website host an advisory on marijuana and the developing brain. The advisory states that marijuana works by binding to receptors in the brain to produce euphoria, intoxication, memory and motor impairments. A 2002 study posted on National Institutes of Health (NIH) website found that daily use of marijuana in young women was associated with an over fivefold increase in the odds of reporting a state of depression and anxiety. The study also found that marijuana use was associated with a twofold increased risk of depression and anxiety. Lankford focused his question on the link between marijuana consumption and mental health and what research still needs to be conducted. 


LankfordYour report also dealing with marijuana use in children. We’ve seen substance abuse go down in several areas during COVID-19. The exception has been marijuana use that has gone up. I’m sure there are a lot of factors…but for youth and adolescents this has become a very serious issue you’ve made some comments on this. I’d be interested to drill down on the effects of youth and marijuana use and depression. 

Dr. MurthyWhen it comes to youth, I worry that there is a perception that marijuana is completely harmless in children. Our data tells us otherwise. Our date tells that in fact a portion, a substantial minority, of people who use marijuana will actually develop and addiction to marijuana. That number is significantly higher among youth. When kids also have underlying mental health conditions, the impact of marijuana use can also be more significant. And, so, I worry Senator about the messages we may send that say this is ‘utterly harmless’ and ‘there’s no problem here’. We need to be responsible in how we teach our kids about marijuana. I think how we talk to families about marijuana use and I think health care providers also need to be empowered to have these conversations early on as well as teachers. 

Lankford: We’ve got to find a way to get that message out. That message is not getting out. Obviously they’re seeing a role model of other individuals using marijuana and there doesn’t seem to be any voice that’s talking about the real damage in youth in this area. Especially in how they deal with depression.