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Regular Pot Use Bad For Brains of Youth, Teens, Says APA

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    WASHINGTON — 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 psychologists discussing public health implications of marijuana legalization at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention.

    “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.

    Marijuana use is increasing, according to Lisdahl, who pointed to a 2012 study (PDF, 6.43MB) 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.

    “When considering legalization, policymakers need to address ways to prevent easy access to marijuana and provide additional treatment funding for adolescent and young adult users,” she said. She also recommended that legislators consider regulating levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the major psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in order to reduce potential neurocognitive effects.

    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. 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 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 presented 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. In addition, teens in counties with more votes for the legalization of medical marijuana 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.

    American Psychological Association / august 9, 2014


    Photo: shore-215blog

    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. 5-HT2A
    First off, anyone still using IQ to rate intelligence is a moron. IQ is so limited and simplistic it isn't even worth talking about anymore. It was developed 60+ years ago. Also, above age 18 there were no changes if I remember correctly.

    Second, the fact that they talk about teens perceptions of pot shows how desperate they are, as they are merely implying that use of the drug is going up, while we are seeing evidence of a decrease in Colorado.

    Also, these brain abnormalities have NOT been linked to any meaningful functional impairments. And those irregularities have only been show in those 18-25, have they not? I can't find an older article on it that I think denotes this and other details that these press releases are literally just leaving out.

    And the amount of THC in weed is basically irrelevant. Most people are trying to achieve a certain degree of highness, and once they are there will simply stop smoking. If we are to believe what these incompetents are implying, then because liquor is 8x stronger than beer those who have liquor on hand will simply drink the exact same amount as they would beer and kill themselves, which we all know is bullshit. Yet here this logic passes.

    These pathetic press releases have been circulating verbatim all around the internet and I almost posted one yesterday but didn't because they are so ridiculous.

    Also, you can visit http://dontbealabrat.com/ to see just how dubious Colorado's new anti-youth smoking campaign based on this "research" really is. They construct a whole campaign based around the idea that no one knows what the harms of pot are, so you should assume the worst.

    This is just one more wave of recycled reefer madness. Kids shouldn't smoke a ton of pot, but if you say that smoking pot once a week as a teenager is going to limit your life outcomes then I'm going to assume you're high.

    EDIT: In fact, I would bet you it's more likely than not that they are trying to protect their pocket books as many people in therapy are also on prescription drugs other than weed...see where I'm going? These interests are undoubtedly present in their minds to some degree. As Bill Maher once said "Prozac does not want to go up against marijuana, it will lose."
  2. Alfa
    It's pretty weird to read such a political statement from a Psychology Association. Since when is it the task of science association to make biased unfounded claims and press for policy changes?
    All they seem to have is circumstantial evidence that smoking cannabis changes your brain. uhm duh!
    Its a little amazing that this is what they come up with when highlighting negative aspects of marijuana.
  3. kumar420
    Once a week is regular use? I might as well consider sparerib day an addiction by that rule of thumb.
    I hang out with people whom are considered potheads by the standard definition, and they are some of the smartest and most thoughtful people I know. Pot use may affect developing brains in a few negative ways, and smoking anything isn't good for you, but its an important part of growing up. Some take to it, some don't. Some of my finest experiences in life have been under the influence of the magical herbal substance; who said camaraderie, laughs and introspection are a bad thing? Not to mention ifn adolescent is at home smoking bud, he/she isn't out on the streets looking for trouble. Which we all know is too readily available.
  4. Beenthere2Hippie
    And isn't that the point? Isn't this space our DF window into what the news world has to say about drugs--whether we agree with what they're saying or not?

    Shouldn't we be fully aware of all of the quality as well as the poorly researched news being put across the internet so that we more can bear witness to such falsehoods and assumptions and perhaps change such ignorant opinions? Or should we instead bury our proverbial heads in the sand and ignore what we don't agree with that we read or hear?

    For the record, I do not agree with the APA but that doesn't make their press release any less valuable in news content. They believe what they're saying, and whether we agree or not, ladies and gentlemen, that is news.

    The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA is the world's largest association of psychologists, with nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members..

  5. 5-HT2A
    I get all of what you said. But I am still going to attack bullshit when I see it.
  6. Beenthere2Hippie
    Good. We put up the news, as it is, and we look forward to the bright analogies and insightful rhetoric that springs forth from the many informed members who partake in such insightful discussions. Doing so keeps us all sharp and also helps to properly educate all who read and join in on the analysis of truths from untruths. There is no reason ever to hide what is published in this country; it serves to keep us all honest, aware and most of all informed on what is being said by all with a leg in the game, including the largest organization of trained psychologists in the world, the APA.
  7. ianzombie
    And so you should.
    Many of these articles give readers the opportunity to leave comments below it.
    Posting links here will give more people a chance to read, disagree (or agree in some cases) and leave feedback.
    Not everyone will join sites like this to get information and in some cases people who have been lead to believe the reports that the media put out are always factual might benefit from others leaving information that contradicts it and when possible cites scientific evidence to the contrary.
    Anyone leaving messages under such articles should always do so politely and clearly.
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