Now that many states are decriminalizing marijuana, it may seem as if there is nothing wrong with smoking weed. Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons why teenagers should avoid smoking weed.
For one, the teenage years are the last formative years of your brain development and while weed may not cause permanent damage, it will interfere with how your brain develops naturally and it makes learning new things a great deal harder if not impossible. Here are just a few short-term effects of smoking weed:
- Increased difficulty in thinking and problem solving
- Difficulty remembering things
- Altered perception
- Needless to say, all of these effects interfere with education and decision making at a time when these skills are in the final stages of development. Alcohol can also have a major effect on a teenager’s development, so find treatment for your teenager if they have a drinking problem.
Slows Brain Development in the Formative Years
There is further evidence that heavy pot smoking can alter the brain structure of teenagers. While the social stigma may be decreasing, it is still harmful to a young developing mind and can have lasting impacts long into adulthood. For instance, a 2013 study showed that daily use for three years show teens “had abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory and performed poorly on memory tasks”. This is harmful as poor memory performance indicates poor work performance later in life and can have serious implications for a young adult’s future.
What is alarming is that these effects can last as long after two years after quitting weed as a teenager. It seems that the pathways in the young brain that form memory actually collapse inward and shrink as marijuana use continues, reducing the flow of brain activity which can impact the capacity to retain information.
The Link to Schizophrenia
Another study is the first of its kind as the recent decriminalization efforts of marijuana have lessened the restrictions on these kinds of studies. The findings suggest that the way a brain is altered while smoking weed regularly during teen years is actually quite similar to the way the brain of someone who is schizophrenic is altered. Moreover, smoking weed can possibly trigger mental illness that may be latent in the brain. If the teen has a family history of schizophrenia, the likelihood of occurrence in the teenager is greater when marijuana is heavily used.
“A tremendous amount of addiction research has focused on brain regions traditionally connected with reward/aversion function, and thus motivation,” noted co-senior study author Hans Breiter, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Warren Wright Adolescent Center at Feinberg and Northwestern Memorial.
“This study very nicely extends the set of regions of concern to include those involved with working memory and higher level cognitive functions necessary for how well you organize your life and can work in society,” said lead study author Matthew Smith, a research assistant in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
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