Teen Use of Marijuana May Have Lasting Brain Effects
Jim LiebeltJim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. Jim has over 25 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, and has been on the HomeWord staff since 1998. He has served over the years as a pastor, author, youth ministry trainer, adjunct college instructor and speaker. Jim’s culture blog and parenting articles appear on HomeWord.com. Jim is a contributing author of culture and parenting articles to Crosswalk.com. Jim and his wife Jenny live in Olympia, WA.
- 2010 Nov 22
Teenagers respond differently to drugs than adults, and early use may lead to long-lasting effects on brain development, according to new research.
A study presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting, in San Diego last week, shows people who start using marijuana at a young age have more cognitive shortfalls. Also, the more marijuana a person used in adolescence, the more trouble they had with focus and attention.
"Early onset smokers have a different pattern of brain activity, plus got far fewer correct answers in a row and made way more errors on certain cognitive tests," says study author Staci Gruber, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Her study evaluated 29 non-smokers and 35 chronic marijuana smokers — 20 began smoking pot regularly before age 16 while 15 started smoking after age 16. All were about 22 years old when the study was conducted.
They were asked to perform a card-sorting task where they were shown four cards that differed in color, shape, and number.
While the smokers performed tasks quickly, they did not learn from their errors when corrected — a hallmark that the part of the brain that governs executive function is impaired, says Gruber.