Marijuana is harmless, right?

Kids Brains on pot- Brain Based Learning

Across the nation, the issue of marijuana use is being hotly debated.   Those in favor of recreational use of pot make claims that it’s harmless, that it’s not addictive, and that there are no real side effects. These claims seem to be especially appealing to young people are looking to justify their use of the drug. I’ve heard some teenager’s claim that, “It can’t be bad for you if doctors give it as medicine.”

But do those claims stack up against the evidence? More so, what do we know about the impact of regular marijuana use on the developing teen brain?

The issue of marijuana use among young people was addressed at a recent meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA).   Setting aside the arguments for medical marijuana for adults, Dr. Krista Lisdahl, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said this, “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.” She went on to highlight that brain imaging has shown that marijuana use results in changes in brain structure and abnormalities in the brain’s gray matter (which is associated with intelligence). THC, the active ingredient in marijuana has also been associated with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

As adults and educators, what can we do to inform students about the impact of marijuana on their brains? Well, we certainly want to provide kids accurate information and facts. However, many kids are going to be influenced by what they see in the media and by what their peers are doing.

One of the best tools I’ve ever seen is provided free of charge by Dr. Daniel Amen. He is a world-renown expert on the brain who has written numerous best-selling books such as Healing ADD and Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. He refers to substance abuse as “brain pollution” and backs up his statements with SPECT scans. SPECT is an acronym for Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography which is a brain imaging technique that measures blood flow and metabolism in the brain. On his website, he displays SPECT images of the brains of individuals who have been regular marijuana users. Check them out at the link below. A picture really is powerful so help your students see the impact of drugs on their brains; don’t just tell them about it….let them see it!

American Psychological Association (APA). “Regular marijuana use bad for teens’ brains, study finds.” Available at



  1. Mr. Harris:
    This article is very interesting right now because our president Juan Manuel Santos, last week, decided to legalize marihuana for medical purposes. This has caused a big debate around the topic and the use of it; some people agree and some don’t, as it always occur when something critical as this goes on top of the table.
    I attended Dr. Daniel Amen’s one day workshop at the Brain Expo in 2009 in Newport Beach and learned from him a lot of issues around how substances like marihuana affects the brain, based on the numerous types of scans there are right now. He spoke about the importance of having all the new technologies to see the brain, it function and how it is affected with cocaine, meath, marihuana, drugs and disorders.
    Thanks for your article which I plan to share with my colleagues at school!
    Iliana Aljure

  2. Marijuana use disorder is on the rise!

    Did you know there was such a thing as marijuana use disorder? Well, there is. You can check it out in the DSM-5.

    With our country’s rapidly changing view towards cannabis, it makes sense that we would see a rise in the number of people who are experiencing serious negative effects of pot. By one estimate, that number is now at 6 million people who qualify under the DSM-5 indicators for a use disorder of cannabis. 6 million people!

    Read more here:

    Its time to educate our young people…marijuana is not harmless.

  3. Its time for another pot update!

    Remember, as educators and adults we have a responsibility to teach kids about the negative effects of marijuana use. And its getting harder! Nationally, attitudes are changing but that does not mean that marijuana use is a good thing for kids.

    A recently published study found that chronic marijuana users had disrupted brain processes related to rewards. Our brains respond to rewards, we know that. What this study found was that marijuana users had disrupted reward responses compared to those who don’t use marijuana. This is not a good thing and possibly accounts for some of the behavior problems we typically see with heavy users. And, the researchers added that this disruption in the brain’s typical reward-response cycle is likely an indicator of marijuana dependence.

    Read more here:
    fMRI study of neural sensitization to hedonic stimuli in long-term, daily cannabis users. (Fibley, et. al, 2016)

  4. Here is yet another marijuana update.

    Published in July of 2016 – One Minute of Marijuana Secondhand Smoke Exposure Substantively Impairs Vascular Endothelial Function

    What does this mean? Breathing secondhand pot smoke does damage to your arteries. In fact, in this study, that damage was WORSE than secondhand cigarette smoke. Now, in all honesty, this study was done in rats but humans share many similarities with rats in how our arteries respond to smoke.

    Time to educate everyone you know – marijuana is not good for you!


  5. Some people think that marijuana use enhances certain cognitive functions like creativity.

    A recent study disproves that myth.

    Regular pot smokers actually perfomed more poorly on tests of creativity such as brainstorming. Plus, this study showed that pot smokers were worse at spotting their own mistakes.

    Read more at:

  6. More bad news for pot smokers – using marijuana increases risk for stroke and heart disease.

    We know that all drugs and substances have both effects and side effects. While the effects THC (getting high) might make you feel good temporarily, the long-term negative side effects are alarming.

    You can read more at:

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