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4 Ways Cannabis Harms the Teenage Brain

4 Ways Cannabis Harms the Teenage Brain

As the legalization of cannabis expands in the U.S., interest is skyrocketing in the drug’s potential as a therapy for physical and psychological issues. Many teens see legalization as a green light to light up. But even though some research suggests possible therapeutic effects for people with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, other studies point to marijuana’s negative effects on young, developing brains.

1. Increases the risk of depression and suicidal behavior

Using marijuana before the age of 18 significantly increases the risk of developing depression, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts in young adulthood, according to a 2019 review of 11 studies involving more than 23,000 people. The study concluded, “This is an important public health problem and concern, which should be properly addressed by health care policy.”

2. Impairs cognitive function

Decades of research shows that marijuana impairs brain functions, such as memory, learning, and attention. Adolescents who use cannabis frequently have been shown to experience a decline in IQ, perform more poorly in school, and are more likely to drop out. Later in life, they have higher rates of unemployment and tend to have lower rates of satisfaction with their life in general.

3. Disrupts the brain’s maturation process

During the teenage years, the brain is undergoing rapid development. A process called myelination takes place, coating neurons with a protective white-colored sheath that helps speed communication in the brain. This important process, which gives the brain’s white matter its color, isn’t completed until a person’s mid-20s. Heavy cannabis use as an adolescent can interfere with this process, damage the brain’s white matter, and result in a higher incidence of impulsivity, especially in teens who started smoking marijuana prior to the age of 16.

4. Reduces blood flow to the brain

A 2016 brain imaging study on nearly 1,000 cannabis users showed overall decreased blood flow compared to a healthy group of nonusers. The brain region most likely to be affected in marijuana users in this study was the hippocampus, which is involved in memory, moods, and learning. Low blood flow on brain SPECT imaging has also been seen with ADHD, depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more.

Any addictive substance can ruin lives and ruin families, and marijuana is no exception. Amen Clinics takes a 360-degree approach to treating addictions — addressing any co-existing conditions and using a whole suite of strategies to enhance overall brain health.

If you’re concerned about an adolescent’s cannabis use, reach out today to make an appointment online or by calling 888-288-9834.

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COMMENTS

  1. Heather Zwicker says:

    Regarding your article on Cannabis and the Teenage Brain, would that also apply to CBD supplements or just marijuana with THC?

  2. susan smart says:

    Thanks for your statements about cannabis! I appreciate your observations and opinions and will repeat them to my clients who come to me for counseling. I’m sad that kids are using it more and more!

    Dr. Susan Smart, Licensed Psychologist

  3. Karen says:

    Is there a way to revive the hippocampus if marijuana was used when they were teenagers and now in their 50’s and 60’s?

  4. pat Schaible says:

    We were told that CBD oil capsules help Parkinson’s patients with processing problems. My husband had a brain scan and it showed a deficiency of oxygen to the brain. He has been on this. Should we stop.
    Thank you for your help.
    Pat

  5. Cynthia says:

    I love all your articles and progressive knowledge that you share. It’s unfortunate that you have only offered help for the wealthy with your cost……..

  6. Madalena says:

    Great article as usual. From personal experience I don’t agree with point 1and 2 and think there is still a lot to discover on this front. I only became a functional human being once I started smoking Canabis. Growing up I had severe memory problems and leaning disabilities and pot helped me overcome many things. I also think that alcohol and pharmaceuticals are far more dangerous for a growing brain and other vital organs and would like to see more research on that.

  7. Diana says:

    Please a professional answer
    does medical Canabis
    have the same effect?

    Dr. Amen;
    How much would a consultation with your clinic cost and would insurance cover it??

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