Teen marijuana smokers damage brain, impair long term memory and learning

brainpotOriginally published in Christian Examiner

New research reveals that teen pot smokers damage the actual shape of their brains, causing long term memory problems as adults.

According to the study conducted atNorthwestern University and published March 12 in the journal Hippocampus, researchers evaluated 97 people from a prior study whose pattern of substance use was to smoke cannabis daily for about three years as teenagers. The individuals were assessed for long-term recall and found to score 18 percent more poorly than young adults who had never smoked the drug.

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Authors of the study indicated the research was conducted to further evaluate evidence over the past decade that heavy marijuana smokers were found to have an abnormally shaped hippocampus — that portion of the brain’s temporal lobe where memories, emotion and learning occur. 

“Cannabis use has been associated with episodic memory (EM) impairments and abnormal hippocampus morphology among both healthy individuals and schizophrenia subjects,” the scholars wrote, “research is needed to evaluate the relationship between cannabis-related hippocampal morphology and EM among healthy and clinical groups.”

Ultimately the study showed teens who heavily used marijuana demonstrated memory problems in their early twenties. It also indicated a notable difference persisted even after two years of not smoking.

One of the report’s senior author’s Dr. John Csernansky, who chairs psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital said “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,” the science news publication EurekaAlert reported.

Another study evaluating the impact of cannabis published in The Journal of Neuroscience last April collected MRI scans of recreational marijuana users that also found exposure to the drug appeared to alter the volume and shape measures of different parts of the brain as well.

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