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Parents’ open acceptance of marijuana may harm teens' brains

Marijuana use may harm teens' brains.
Marijuana use may harm teens' brains.
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Are you a parent who supports the legalization of marijuana? Are you also in favor of allowing teenagers to use marijuana as a leisurely drug? You may want to clarify the details of your support with your teenagers. A press release on Aug. 9 suggests marijuana use in teens may be more harmful to the growing brain than what people believe. Marijuana use appears to affect the memory, attention span, promote cognitive decline and decrease teens’ intelligence, according to psychologists discussing research at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.

Brain imaging studies of regular marijuana users (use of cannabis at least once a week) show a significant change in the brain structure, particularly in youth users. This change may result in neuro-cognitive damage and give teens a higher risk of depression, anxiety and psychosis in adulthood.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana has approximately 400 chemicals in the ingredients. The mind-altering component is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, which gives the user the ‘high.’ It is estimated that of the confiscated marijuana, 10 percent is THC, on average.

A survey conducted by NIDA found marijuana use amongst students (8th through 12th grades) actually declined between the 1990s and 2007 but appears to be on an upswing. In 2012, reports from 12th graders indicated daily marijuana use rose to 6.5 percent, up from 5.1 percent in 2007.

Teens usually are influenced by their parents’ beliefs. If parents are openly supportive of marijuana legalization and leisurely use, teens may believe the drug is also safe for them to use. This could put them at a higher risk of subsequent brain changes that will affect cognitive function later in life. Parents are advised to talk to their teens about the dangers of marijuana use as it may affect them differently and cause damage to the teens’ brain structure.