Last week we looked at the effects of alcohol on the developing teenage brain, and marijuana use is just as detrimental. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) recently released a study that researched the long term effects of marijuana use. The results included MRI scans that observed physical changes in the brain and reveal chronic marijuana use can actually lower the IQ by five points. This is particularly the case when use begins at an early age. Because the human brain continues developing into the mid-twenties, regular exposure to toxic substances can hinder its healthy maturation. It is essential, then, that we talk to children at an early age about the potential damage of the use of this substance.
According to a CNN report, Dr. Susan Weiss, associate director of Scientific Affairs at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says the PNAS study “showed that the orbitofrontal cortex, an area involved in reward, decision making and motivation, was smaller in heavy users.” Teens engaging in marijuana use risk interfering with their ability to function at peak capacity and are therefore robbed of meeting their fullest potential.
With recent trends of increasing legal access to marijuana, it is timelier than ever that we talk to children and teens about the effects of the drug’s use on the brain and body. In the eyes of the teenager, the evolving legal status implies a green light to use. However, just because something is legal does not mean it is necessarily safe. Informing teens of the negative consequences of substance use, as well as equipping them with the skills they need to make responsible decisions, can keep them healthy and substance-free.