Marijuana And The Teen Brain
13October

Marijuana And The Teen Brain

Written by Mark Sampson, Posted on , in Section Parenting On Purpose

Developmental Issues Rising From Substance Abuse

Teenagers are dealing with a lot of issues, concerns over fitting in, who they want to date, their images and so on. With all of these concerns competing for their attention, the likeliness of a teen being concerned about their brain’s development is usually pretty minimal. However, it's important to remember that a teen’s brain is at a critical point in it's development. It is in the teen years where the brain is in the process of transforming from child to adult.

So where does marijuana come into play? “In a recent federally sponsored survey, 60 percent of high school seniors say they think marijuana is safe, and 23 percent say they’ve used marijuana in the past month.” Of those seniors, a smaller percent (6 percent) admitted they use pot every day. This is triple the amount used by seniors over the past decade.

The Effects Can Be Obvious

Back in the 1990’s, when I was in high school, I had a personal experience with this issue. A very good friend of mine, Bob, smoked pot every single day. Bob became what is known as a “wake and bake”, someone who starts smoking pot the moment they wake up. This is a guy who used to be able to hold some of the most intelligent conversations, but by the time our class graduated you could hardly comprehend anything he said. I realize this is an extreme case, but it serves as an example of what can happen.

Krista Lisdahl, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, says it's a mistake for teenagers to use cannabis. "It's the absolute worst time." It is her belief the mind-altering drug can disrupt development. “Think of the teen years, she says, as the "last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible."

With marijuana more potent today than in the past, thanks to higher levels of THC (the main mind-altering ingredient), is it really as safe as these seniors assume it is?  Before anyone can definitively say no, there needs to be more research. Dr. Gregory Tau, a psychiatrist and drug abuse researcher at Columbia University, is advocating for more funding for better long-term studies.  Tau also adds that "It's not rocket science to think if you smoke weed when your brain is developing, that it can't be 'good' for you, just like any 'toxic' substance isn't good for you.”

The Reality?

The reality is, regardless of how safe you may think marijuana is, it is still a drug. So if there is even a chance that you could affect your brain development, why would you even consider risking that? Of course, if you are a teen who is pre-occupied with everyday obstacles, you may feel less inclined to worry about such things. All I can do is to suggest you, at least, consider the possibilities.

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