Should we be worried about the effects of marijuana on developing minds? In a word, yes.
In adolescence through to the early 20s, the brain is undergoing a massive reorganization and reallocation of energy and resources. The areas associated with planning, prioritizing, problem-solving, emotional control, attention and risk assessment are under construction. This makes the brain especially vulnerable to outside influences and input.
At this sensitive time of development, the effects of alcohol and cannabis are significantly greater than later in life. Intoxication in any form disrupts the developmental process and can leave lasting effects. Recent research is uncovering the ways in which cannabis use among teens can lead to cognitive impairment, memory loss and susceptibility to mental illness.
The earlier a teen uses marijuana, the worse for the brain. Studies have shown negative impacts on mental processing, verbal learning, attention, memory, impulse control and motivation among 13-24 year olds.
Marijuana is not a harmless drug, as many teens argue. Our understanding of both brain science and the effects of THC on developing minds is growing, and the picture isn’t good. The opinion of the Harvard Medical School, for example, is that adolescents are uniquely susceptible to lasting damage from marijuana use, leading to both physical and neurological disorders.
It’s time to talk openly – at home and at school – about pot and the teenage brain.