Guess What? Regular Marijuana Use By Teens Really Does Fry Their Brains

Big surprise.  A new study has found that regular marijuana use is bad for teens' brains.

You think?

Frequent marijuana use can have a significant negative effect on the brains of teenagers and young adults, including cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased IQ, according to this new study, newswise.com reports.

“It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth,” said Krista Lisdahl, PhD, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at the Web site.

Now when I was a teen, everyone smoked weed, and I mean, everyone.  You couldn't go to a party, or even a dorm room, without that sweet smoky smell in the air.  I must be the only person on the planet who only ever took one puff  (and that was with my baby sister!).  But I just never had the desire for drugs of any kind.  Maybe it was more that I didn't like losing control.

But this new study, and others, have shown that marijuana use is increasing, according to Lisdahl, who pointed to a 2012 study showing that 6.5 percent of high school seniors reported smoking marijuana daily, up from 2.4 percent in 1993. Additionally, 31 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 25) reported using marijuana in the last month. People who have become addicted to marijuana can lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood, according to Lisdahl, referring to a 2012 longitudinal study of 1,037 participants who were followed from birth to age 38.

Brain imaging studies of regular marijuana users have shown significant changes in their brain structure, particularly among adolescents, Lisdahl said. Abnormalities in the brain’s gray matter, which is associated with intelligence, have been found in 16- to 19-year-olds who increased their marijuana use in the past year, she said. These findings remained even after researchers controlled for major medical conditions, prenatal drug exposure, developmental delays and learning disabilities, she added.

Which is all pretty interesting, given that you can now buy pot legally in Colorado and other states are setting up its use for medical conditions (which I'm totally for).

 Some legalized forms of marijuana have higher levels of THC than other strains, said Alan Budney, PhD, of Dartmouth College. THC is responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, newswise notes. Some research has shown that frequent use of high potency THC can increase risk of acute and future problems with depression, anxiety and psychosis.

“Recent studies suggest that this relationship between marijuana and mental illness may be moderated by how often marijuana is used and potency of the substance,” Budney said. “Unfortunately, much of what we know from earlier research is based on smoking marijuana with much lower doses of THC than are commonly used today.” Current treatments for marijuana addiction among adolescents, such as brief school addiction among adolescents, such as brief school interventions and outpatient counseling, can be helpful but more research is needed to develop more effective strategies and interventions, he added.

Additionally, people’s acceptance of legalized medical marijuana use appears to have an effect on adolescents’ perception of the drug’s risks, according to Bettina Friese, PhD, of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in California. She quoted results from a 2013 study of 17,482 teenagers in Montana, which found marijuana use among teenagers was higher in counties where larger numbers of people voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2004.

Teens in counties with more votes for the legalization of medical marijuana also perceived marijuana use to be less risky. The research findings suggest that a more accepting attitude toward medical marijuana may have a greater effect on marijuana use among teens than the actual number of medical marijuana licenses available, Friese said.

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