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The Impact of Marijuana on the Developing Brain
The brain is the most complex organ in the entire human body. It is the single part of the body that we know the least about. We continue to research and study this organ and with all new research comes all new results. The most intriguing of these new-found results may actually be how early usage of marijuana actually impacts a growing and developing brain.

During the teenage years your brain begins to change. As a child your brain is larger and during adolescence the brain begins to prune itself and cut out some connections that it won’t be needing for adulthood. Brain regions associated with problem solving, planning, working memory and emotional regulation, including the pre-frontal cortex, the parietal cortex and the cerebellum continue to undergo grey-matter pruning until the mid-twenties. The brain essentially re-wires itself to become faster and more efficient. This streamlining process is used to help the brain make important judgments, think critically and improve memory functions. Introducing a mind altering substance during this crucial part of growth and development is the worst idea. Krista Lisdahal, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at the University of Wisconsin says on teen marijuana use that “It’s the absolute worst time” and to think of the teen years as the “last golden opportunity to make the brain as healthy and smart as possible”.

There have been a growing number of studies to show that regular use of marijuana- once a week or more- actually changes the structure of the brain in areas such as memory retention and problem solving. Marijuana use causes the brain to prune and re-wire in a different way than it would have if marijuana was not introduced. These issues can affect cognition and academic performance. Studies have shown that people who began using marijuana in their teenage years and continued throughout the following years lose about eight points from their IQ from childhood to adulthood. Even more points have been shown to be lost the earlier the individual begins usage. It’s not just about your IQ, adults who smoked marijuana as teenagers have performed worse on tests of memory and decision-making than the adults who refrained in their youth. Cannabis use at an early age is also shown to be linked to several mental health disorders such as psychosis and schizophrenia, in which the individuals diagnosed usually start to show symptoms in their mid to late twenties. Bottom Line: Using marijuana at an early age permanently alters your brain for the rest of your adult life.

Take a moment and think about how important it is for you to be able to think on our feet, make reasonable judgment calls and to really stand out among your peers. In a time where we are all pressured to be the smartest and most resourceful, is it really worth risking the growth and development of a your brain, to change and re-structure you for the rest of your life?

                                                                                                        -Melanie Bright

Supporting Articles Include:

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/28/health/time-teens-pot/

http://whataboutweed.org/?page_id=273

http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00053/full#B106

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/25/282631913/marijuana-may-hurt-the-developing-teen-brain

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/heavy-marijuana-use-alters-teenage-brain-structure

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