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Marijuana Legalization

APA Says Regular Marijuana Use Is 'Bad for Teen Brains'

posted 11:34 PM EST, Sun August 10, 2014

Though many perceive marijuana to be relatively harmless, researchers from the APA urge those considering legalization to keep cannabis away from underage consumers.

“Regular marijuana use is bad for teen brains.”

That’s the warning-headline on the American Psychological Association’s (APA) website, summing up symposium discussions on the public health implications of marijuana legalization at their 122nd Annual Convention.

According to researchers presenting at the symposium, regular marijuana use in adolescence – which they define as once a week or more – can have significant and lasting consequences, such as

  • Teens who smoke regularly are at risk of addiction, and those that become addicted to marijuana can lose an average of 6 I.Q. points by mid adulthood.
  • Increased marijuana use in adolescence is associated with grey matter reductions (grey matter is associated with intelligence).
  • Reduced attention and memory capacities.

Policy Suggestions

There is some evidence that legalization and more favorable social attitudes toward marijuana lead to an increase in adolescent marijuana use and a decrease in adolescent perception of the risks and dangers of marijuana use. Therefore, the psychologists urge policy makers considering marijuana legalization to also consider:

  • What measures might help to reduce adolescent access to marijuana.
  • Whether regulating THC potency might help (higher THC potency is linked to greater use-consequences).
  • Increasing funding for adolescent addiction treatment.

Summing up her research, Krista Lisdahl, PhD, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said, “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.”

Marijuana is far more dangerous for teens with still-developing brains than it is for adults. To learn more about why it’s important to delay marijuana initiation to adulthood, read Help Teens Delay Marijuana Use to Avoid Cognitive, Academic and Mental Illness Risks.

Also, if someone you love uses marijuana but denies the existence of a problem, ask them to take this quick teen marijuana addiction test.

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Story Highlights
  • Cognitive Declines: Teens who become addicted can lose 6 I.Q. points by mid adulthood.
  • Regulate THC: As a policy suggestion, the psychologists say regulating THC levels might help to reduce negative consequences.
  • Public Perceptions: In areas with greater support for legalization, teens perceive marijuana to be less risky.
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