A new study from scientists at the University of Montreal says that marijuana is worse for the teenage brain than alcohol. Now, in the original article that I read about the study on NBC News that was pretty much the headline. But in my opinion the headline should read something like this and be in all caps:
MARIJUANA IS CAUSING LITERAL BRAIN DAMAGE TO YOUR TEEN SO DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO KEEP THEM FROM SMOKING IT!!!!
Listen, parents: this is not one of those “they’re going to do it anyway” things. Findings of the study, which was published Wednesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry are corroborated by other studies and are super, super serious. The study followed over 3,800 adolescents from 31 Montreal-area schools over four years. The key findings are devastating.
NBC news outlines how the study worked:
The teens, who started participating in the study when they were 13, agreed to provide annual reports of how frequently they used marijuana and alcohol. They also took computer-based cognitive tests that measured recall memory, perceptual reasoning, inhibition and short-term memory.
To get a more honest account of their marijuana and alcohol consumption, students were assured that parents and teachers would not have access to the information — unless there was an imminent safety risk.
Teen marijuana use causes brain damage that cannot be reversed
Findings included the fact that marijuana use had a more detrimental effect on students’ cognitive abilities than alcohol, and that those devastating effects never go away. In other words, when it comes to teen brain function, what’s lost to marijuana use can never be regained.
“Cannabis causes cognitive impairment and delayed cognitive development in adolescents,” Patricia Conrad, the lead author and professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, told NBC News. “This study focuses on the neuropsychological effects of cannabis. We think it’s important because it is linked to how someone functions in life.”
I must agree with Dr. Conrad here. It scares me that our teens are making decisions with their immature brains that can literally affect their ability to think and reason for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t help that our culture treats marijuana as a joke and as “no big deal.” Let me be clear, I am not talking about medical cannabis or medical marijuana, or even adult use. But I am saying that we need to do everything that we can to keep our teens from smoking marijuana before their parental lobes are fully formed, which science tell us is about age 24 through 26.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with me on the harmful attitude of our culture towards marijuana use. “Amid increasingly lax laws and attitudes on pot use,” NBC News says, “the American Academy of Pediatrics published a report last year” that opposes even medical marijuana use for kids, as well as recreational use.
Teens who use marijuana are also more likely to attempt suicide
Another concerning study about teen marijuana use is the 2014 Lancet Psychiatry study, which found that teens who smoke marijuana daily are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school or college than teens who never use it, and what’s worse, they are also seven times more likely to attempt suicide.
Moms and dads, if that doesn’t frighten you, then I don’t know what will.
As I’ve previously written, electronic cigarettes have even further popularized teen marijuana use. It’s more important now than ever for you to talk to your kids about the harmful effects of marijuana, and to make sure that they know what is in that e-cigarette pod before they take a hit. Of course, it would be more preferable if you can convince them not to take a hit in the first place, but please do make this talk you have with them fully inclusive, and don’t assume that they’re never going to take a hit from an e-cigarette.
Bottom line, parents: don’t ignore this one. Teen marijuana use can alter the course of your child’s life negatively and permanently. Time to set those kids down for another awkward talk that hopefully, they’ll never forget.