Marijuana usage among adolescents continues to rise because too many want to believe there is no harm done. That couldnâ€™t be further from the facts, and a reports published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has evidence to prove it. Unfortunately, this information, like the warning on the side of cigarette packages, will continue to go unheeded.
According to the study, chronic use of marijuana can damage brain cells and slow down their mental and memorization capabilities in adolescents. Prior to their 15th birthday, chronic marijuana use can contribute to a long list of lifelong health problems, and an elevated risk for mental problems.
Marijuana blocks the brainâ€™s activity level, putting it into a lower state of consciousness. It is the most common non-prescription drug used by adolescents. One hundred thousand teens are treated each year for marijuana dependence, and the number is rising while the age they start is lowering. A University of Michigan report says one out of 15 high school seniors reports using marijuana, and that is a conservative estimate. Heavy marijuana smoking among teens can produce the same symptoms of withdrawal as that of nicotine use.
Regularly users of marijuana often develop breathing problems, chronic cough and wheezing, much like a regular smoker does. The same chemicals found to be harmful in tobacco (THC or tetrahydrocannabinal) are present in marijuana, but the carbon monoxide levels absorbed by marijuana users is three to five times greater than that among tobacco smokers. To add to the problem, behavior shown by the introduction of THC to the brain is similar to that exhibited by excessive alcohol abuse.
Marijuana does have an affect on the hippocampus and the amygdala areas of the brain, known for learning, memory, cognitive functions, decision making and ability to control emotions.
The brain is still developing past the age of 20. Immature brains that are introduced to toxins can exhibit delays in development and maturity, and loss or delay in cognitive function. It is worse on the brains if the usage was started prior to their 15th birthday because their brains are especially fragile to the neurotoxin effects of cannabis, leading to lessened mental flexibility and poor memory function.
One hundred four chronic marijuana users were used in the study. The focus was to determine whether early exposure to marijuana could cause damage to a teenâ€™s developing brain. Included in the study were 49 people who started smoking marijuana before they were 15 (early-onset users who averaged 10.9 years of use), and 55 who didnâ€™t start until after they were 15 (late-onset users who averaged 8.7 years of use). There were 44 teens in the control group who did not use marijuana.
Each volunteer was tested for the neurological impact of early cannabis use through participation in brain exercises. They found no significant difference in intelligence levels, but those who started smoking early did poorly in cognitive function areas, concentration, coordination and endurance. There were more mistakes made in the early-onset group, who had trouble completing tasks in categories that related to card-sorting. There was no significant difference in the scorecard of non-users and late starter marijuana users.
The conclusion of the study is that regular exposure to marijuana while the brain is still forming; especially to those younger than 15, damages overall mental health, and the effects are irreversible.
The jury is still out as to moderate use of marijuana in adults whose brains have been completely formed. Chronic, heavy users, on the other hand do show ill effects in cognitive function and basic reactions, similar to an alcoholic, and will experience withdrawals.
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.
Memoryzine.com – Early Teen Exposure to Cannabis May Damage Brain and Impair Short-term Memory: http://memoryzine.com