Teens and marijuana. Study after study has shown the risks are there for kids and heavy marijuana use. Before anti-legalization advocates trumpet this to Colorado, the legalization there still prevents kids from buying the drug.

A Northwestern University team of researchers gathered up 97 heavy users of marijuana. None of the the volunteers had a history of mental illness, and all said they became daily users of marijuana around age 16 or 17.

What researchers found were the drug users grew up to have poor memories and brain abnormalities. While the memory issues were linked, the brain abnormalities could not be definitively linked to marijuana use. Researchers were unsure if the brain structure differences came before or after the use of pot. Still, the study suggest heavy marijuana could have this long-term effect.

What type of brain abnormalities? The daily users in the study had an unusually shaped hippocampus, the area of the brain used for long-term memory storage. Participants also performed 18 percent worse on long-term memory tests.

“The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family,” said Dr. John Csernansky, who worked on the study.

Lasting Marijuana Effects

This isn’t the first study by the research team to link heavy marijuana use with brain abnormalities and memory issues. Other research has dinged teen use as dangerous for short-term and working memory, as well as abnormalities in the striatum, thalamus and globus pallidus.

“It is possible that the abnormal brain structures reveal a pre-existing vulnerability to marijuana abuse,” Matthew Smith, who led the study, said in a statement.

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“But evidence that the longer the participants were abusing marijuana, the greater the differences in hippocampus shape suggests marijuana may be the cause.”

The latest study, in the journal Hippocampus, showed the effects of heavy pot use in teens lasting into early adulthood. Even after participants had quit using marijuana.

“Advanced brain mapping tools allowed us to examine detailed and sometimes subtle changes in small brain structures, including the hippocampus,” said Lei Wang an assistant professor of psychiatry who also worked on the study.

Marijuana Legalization

There’s a definite movement in the United States towards legalization of marijuana. Four states and DC have legalized it for recreational use. Multiple states have legalized it for medicinal use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has already released guidelines opposing any non-medicinal use of marijuana.

Other studies have pointed out marijuana is the safest substance to abuse, being far less likely to kill you than tobacco, heroin or alcohol. That’s not exactly the kind of study you want to see. You can get stoned out of your mind, but at least it’s safer than alcohol.

It boils down to personal responsibility in adults using the drug. Thankfully, the personal responsibility is helped by the price. Legalization in the four states has equaled taxes, which aids in curtailing abuse.

Still, teens? It may be the ‘cool’ thing in high school, but the studies are not wavering on the impacts on the brain and memory.

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