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 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140809141436.htm