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How Does Pot Affect Teen Brain Development?

Call it marijuana, cannabis, weed or pot, but it is all the same drug. While legalizing marijuana is slowly gaining acceptance around the country, there are still many good reasons why teenagers should not us the drug. Teenage brains are still forming and need to be protected from this potentially harmful and addictive substance.

Marijuana Legalization

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use by teenagers declined during the late 1990s through the mid-to-late 2000s, but it is currently on the increase around the nation. One alarming statistic is that one in six teens that try marijuana will become addicted.

Whether it is legalized or not for those over 21 years old in some states, pot use is still illegal everywhere for teenagers. There are credible arguments and current research to support the fact that teenagers should not smoke pot.

Today, there is a higher concentration of the active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in marijuana than there has been in the past.

Teens, Weed and Brain Development

Adolescent brains are still developing. Teens who participated in the recent research studies were those who smoked pot every day over the course of three years. Marijuana use during the teen years contributes to anomalous changes in the developing brain structure. Research shows that chronic use of pot as a teenager can cause abnormal changes in their brain function including:

  • Reasoning issues
  • Difficulty with problem solving
  • Problems with working memory
  • Trouble with critical thinking
  • Weak academic performance
  • Impaired everyday functioning
  • Decline in IQ and cognitive functioning years later

Teens using marijuana can display behaviors similar to that of schizophrenia because of the changes that occur in the brain. Some teens with chronic marijuana use also had a higher risk of developing psychosis.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) confirms physical changes to the actual brain matter of teens who regularly smoke pot. The affected areas of the brain include:

  • Striatum, which controls reward and motivation
  • Thalamus, which regulates cognitive output
  • Globus pallidus, which involves movement and memory

It is important to note that there are both physical and psychological side effects to marijuana use in teenagers. The negative effects on the brain, as noted in recent research studies, were still apparent two years after a teen stopped smoking marijuana. Further long-term monitoring of the effects of marijuana on the teen brain will provide more comprehensive data.

The End Result

Many questions remain unanswered about marijuana use for teens. The consensus at this time is this: The younger a person chooses to use marijuana, the more abnormal their ultimate brain function tests will be over time. Thus, teens must be educated and advised against using marijuana while their brains continue to develop. The consequences are unknown and can be far reaching.

 


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