Now that marijuana is widely available and more teenagers are climbing on the pot express every day, we need to realize that we really do not know whether pot is more dangerous for the immature teenage mind than it is for the mature adult mind. American parents have been warning their teenagers about the dangers of marijuana for about 100 years. Their teenagers have been ignoring them for about as long and they will continue to ignore as long as they think that their parents don’t know what they are talking about.
So what are we parents talking about? So what are the dangers? We know that being high impairs attention, memory and learning. Some of today’s stronger varieties can make you physically ill and delusional. However, it is less clear whether marijuana can cause lasting damage to the brain.
Scientists are even more concerned about the possible effects of marijuana on a teenage mind that is still developing. Brain imaging studies have reinforced this concern. For example a number of small studies have seen differences in the brains of habitual weed smokers including altered connectivity between the hemispheres, inefficient cognitive processing in adolescent users and the structures involved in emotional regulation and memory. This is an indication more information is needed.
The answers most likely will come from a study that has has been designed to look at the brains of kids from childhood to early adulthood. The name of the study is The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. It is currently underway at the NIH. Pot smokers and no pot smokers will be studied. The 10 year project will follow 10,000 children from age 9 or 10 to early adulthood. It should help pin down the complex role that marijuana plays in brain development. My educated guess is that the study will show significant and even dramatic changes in the brains of the chronic marijuana smokers.
Once we have this problem pinned down maybe we can get the younger generation to listen.