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Weed and Brain: Impact of Marijuana Use on Higher-Level Thinking

Weed and Brain: Impact of Marijuana Use on Higher-Level Thinking

As marijuana legalization continues to expand across the United States, the stereotypical image of stoners lounging in a weed-filled haze is being replaced by a more socially acceptable view of marijuana use as a way to relax, socialize, and get better sleep.

However, scientific research has long shown that getting high can be detrimental to cognitive function, and a recent review of studies published in the journal Addiction indicates that the negative effects of marijuana use may last long after the initial high, especially for adolescents.

According to the study, cannabis use impairs several areas of cognition, including problems concentrating, difficulties remembering and learning, and impaired executive functions, such as decision-making, planning, organizing, and problem-solving.

These effects can have a considerable impact on users’ daily lives and may lead to reduced educational attainment and poor work performance. Regular and heavy users are at greater risk of experiencing these negative consequences.

The effects of marijuana use on the brain can be particularly damaging for youth, whose brains are still developing. The study’s co-author, Dr Alexandre Dumais, warns that “cannabis use in youth may consequently lead to reduced educational attainment, and, in adults, to poor work performance and dangerous driving.”

Dr Megan Moreno, a professor of paediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, who was not involved in the study, notes that this study provides “strong evidence for negative cognitive effects of cannabis use” and should serve as “critical evidence to prioritize the prevention of cannabis use in youth.”

The review of studies analyzed over 43,000 people and found a negative impact of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, on the brain’s higher levels of thinking. Scientists are still unsure whether these deficits can be reversed or recovered. THC is a fat-soluble compound that may be stored in body fat and gradually released into the bloodstream for months, which may have long-term effects on cognitive and executive functions.

The negative effects of cannabis use may ease after discontinuing use, but this depends on the amount, frequency, and years of marijuana use. The age at which marijuana use began may also play a role, especially if it falls within the crucial developmental period of the youthful brain.

While scientists continue to study the long-term impact of marijuana use on the brain, preventive and interventional measures to educate youths on cannabis use and discourage them from using the substance in a chronic manner should be considered.

The study’s co-author, Dr Alexandre Dumais, suggests that “since youths remain particularly susceptible to the effects of cannabis, preventive and interventional measures to educate youths on cannabis use and discourage them from using the substance in a chronic manner should be considered.” Parents should also be aware that adolescents using cannabis are at risk for damage to their most important organ, their brain.

Weed and Brain: Impact of Marijuana Use on Higher-Level Thinking

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