April 21, 2014
One neuropsychological effect of regular marijuana use is a significant loss in IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38, whereas non-users have no significant drop in IQ over their lifetime.
The abundant evidence showing marijuana causes permanent harm to its users won’t stop Libertarians, hippies, and burnouts from defending the wacky weed with every ounce of passion they can muster. Frankly, I’m bored with people who tout pot as a medicine or a harmless social “lubricant” on a par with alcohol. As far as I’m concerned, such incorrigible fools can defend marijuana use all the way to the dispensary, but the rest of us have a moral obligation to warn our young people about the personal catastrophes that await them if they become users. The following list of facts are derived from several scholarly, peer-reviewed studies on the various ways marijuana will fry your brain.
HOW DOES THC FRY THE BRAIN?
- Delta-9 tetrahydrocannibanol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana, chemically resembles the endocannabinoids produced naturally in the human brain, especially the chemical, Anandamide. THC “fools” or interrupts the natural process of Anandamide receptors in the brain, causing disturbances to the functions that natural cannabinoids “modulate” such as mood, appetite, sensation, memory, pain and pleasure.
- Natural endocannabinoids shape brain development by guiding neuron growth where it is needed, supporting neuron function, and helping the myelination process in the growing brain. Myelination of the brain cells is not complete until the mid to late 20s in humans. THC interferes with all of these critical development processes, and is most damaging to the brains of adolescent marijuana uses because their brains will fail to myelinate properly, causing irreversible structural and psychological changes.
- THC mimics Anandimide but has a much STRONGER and LONGER-LASTING effect on neuron activity. The brain will adapt to THC exposure causing the user to become addicted.
- One way scientists prove the addictive power of substances is through animal research in which rats will ‘self administer’ a substance to which they become addicted. Laboratory experiments with THC revealed that rats continually administered the drug in the same way they would cocaine, heroin and nicotine.
- THC has been found to increase dopamine release in the reward center of the brain, causing a sense of pleasure or euphoria, much like other addictive drugs.
- The withdrawal symptoms of THC include; restlessness, anxiety, irritability, anger, aggression, sleep disturbances, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
- Marijuana addiction accounts for more admissions into teen substance abuse treatment programs than all other intoxicants combined, including alcohol.
- Marijuana addiction is related to the age at which a user begins using; the younger the individual when he begins to use marijuana, the more likely he will become dependent and suffer long-term negative cognitive and behavioral effects.
- THC affects areas of the brain which dictate memory, movement, coordination, vision, judgment and pleasure.
- The hippocampus, which is the center of memory formation and retrieval, sleep regulation, and stress responses, is especially sensitive to THC exposure. Brain imaging studies have proven that regular marijuana users have, on average, smaller hippocampuses and worse memory performance than non-users.
- One neuropsychological effect of regular marijuana use is a significant loss in IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38, whereas non-users have no significant drop in IQ over their lifetime. Those users who started before age 18 had greater drops in IQ than those who started using after age 18.
- Those who use marijuana regularly during adolescence are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety, and/or depression in adulthood.
- Brain scans of of adolescent marijuana users (who had little or no alcohol intake) indicated that the corpus callosum–the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain–were structurally much thinner than those of non-users. Similar structural differences in corpus callosum are found in people with schizophrenia.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THC
- THC intoxication impairs memory, motor coordination, reaction time and visual perception.
- National studies of intoxicant induced fatal car crashes have shown that by 2009 33% of the drivers had THC in the systems. This is a three-fold increase from prior years, and is on the rise in states where medical and recreational marijuana is now legal.
- Since THC stays in the body for protracted periods of time, an individual does not to be acutely intoxicated to be under the influence while driving.
GROWTH AND FERTILITY
- THC affects glands, hormones and certain organs. Studies have shown that adolescents who begin to use marijuana regularly before age 16 are shorter in height than their peer controls.
- Daily use of marijuana may increase the risk of testicular cancer.
NOT YOUR HIPPIE UNCLE’S POT
- Marijuana is bred and cultivated to increase THC levels in the plant. Marijuana now is 5 to 10 times more powerful than when it first became popular among young people.
- As the amount of THC in pot increases the adverse effects, such as paranoia, anxiety and panic, hallucinations, erratic mood swings, and aggressive behavior are magnified.
- There has been a dramatic increase in recent years of emergency room admissions by people who have ingested pot in some form.
- Synthetic forms of THC, which can be up to 10 times more powerful than even today’s cultivated pot are accountable for all of the typical adverse effects of marijuana, as well as seizure and heart attacks.
- Poison control centers are reporting a significant increase in calls related to synthetic THC.
MARKETING TO YOUNG PEOPLE
- After decades of decline, teen use of marijuana is on a dramatic upswing. This is explained by the promotion of marijuana as a “medicine,” legalization in some states, and positive portrayals of its use in popular culture, which all lead to a decreased negative perception of marijuana.
- Medical marijuana and recreational pot operations market to young people through “sexy” and colorful advertisements.
- THC in soda pop, candy, lollipops, butter, and other “edible” forms is designed to appeal to adolescents with the use of bright colors, funny brand names, and cartoon-style logos. These products taste like what they look like and it is not readily apparent that they contain natural or synthetic THC.
- Adults possessing medical marijuana licenses or cards account for nearly half of the pot obtained by teen users.
- Most adults using “medical” marijuana do so because they have a vague diagnosis such as “severe pain.”
- The THC in “medical” marijuana is stronger than street marijuana, often up to 12 times as strong.
IMPACT ON EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
- When medical marijuana became legal in Colorado, expulsions related to possession of pot or intoxication rose about 75% between 2009 and 2011. The number of marijuana-related expulsions has increased even further since recreational pot was legalized by the voters via Amendment 64 in 2012.
- Marijuana smoke contains most of the cancer-causing chemicals, including tar, contained in tobacco smoke.
- Marijuana smoke is usually unfiltered and held in the lungs longer than tobacco smoke.
- Regular marijuana smokers report bronchitis, wheezing, shortness of breath and more sick days in comparison to non-smokers (regardless of tobacco use).
Most who defend marijuana do so because they have a personal preference for it. There are some Libertarian purists who actually oppose any laws prohibiting free expressions of human behavior. Our realities, however, are not so simple. Decades of sound research proves that marijuana is a social evil to be socially discouraged and legally prohibited. The emerging generations of young people have a monstrous economic, social, and political obstacles before them. It’s time for adults to clean up their own lives so they may pave a better path for their children’s future.
by Marjorie Haun 4/21/14
Resources: A Comparison of Mainstream and Sidestream Marijuana and Tobacco Cigarette Smoke Produced Under Two Machine Smoking Conditions ~David Moir et al, July, 2007
Persistent Cannabis Users show Neuropsychological Decline from Childhood to Mid-life ~Madeline Meier et al, April, 2012
The Teen Brain on Marijuana [PDF] Sion Kim Harris, PhD, Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research, Boston Childrens Hospital, Harvard Medical School