Effects of Marijuana Use in the Developing Brain
Did you know that the brain doesn’t stop developing until around age 25? So, the “adult” brain at 18 is not so adult after all. Recent neuroimaging shows the structure of the brain is still changing and growing even into a person’s mid- to late- 20s. With the brain still developing, the effects of marijuana use by young adults are far-reaching.
Detrimental habits picked up in adolescence and early adulthood, such as a habit of marijuana usage, can have lifelong implications. Heavy marijuana usage in your teens can actually change the way your brain develops.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for planning, judgment, decision making, and personality. It also happens to be the last area of the brain to mature. Some other areas most likely to keep growing well into the early 20s are the areas linked to cognitive ability, social thinking, higher-order thinking, and perception.
Changes in the Brain
In 2012, a longitudinal study done by Duke University saw that people who smoked marijuana consistently over a 20 year period, with heavy usage in their formative years, had an average IQ drop of 6 points between ages 13 and 38. That is roughly the same decline as those with prolonged lead exposure.
Scientists believe that teens and young adults are particularly susceptible to increased negative side effects of heavy drug use because the brain is not fully developed. As usage increases, the body’s normal development is stunted by the effects of marijuana on the brain.
Deregulated Emotions & Increased Stress
In addition to decreased cognitive abilities, young adults who use marijuana are more likely to have deregulated emotions and increased stress response. As consistent marijuana users grow into adults, the stress response on a cellular level actually slows down. This makes it more difficult for adults to regulate themselves and respond to stress appropriately with marijuana to help them cope. This can make everything from buying a car to getting up for work on-time a struggle, potentially leading to social development problems as time goes on.
Physical Changes in the Brain
Various studies have shown that consistent marijuana use during the developmental years affects the brain’s growth and stability. A scientific review of 43 studies by scientists at the University of Barcelona found consistent cannabis use to be linked to structural brain abnormalities and altered neural activity. For those who consistently smoked (5 out of 7 days a week) or more than 2,500 times in their lifetime, MRI results showed decreased white matter and decreased the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for making rational decisions. This stunted growth may be the reason marijuana can sometimes be a gateway drug – it desensitizes you to the danger of drug abuse which makes taking drugs an easier decision.
Increased Psychosomatic Symptoms
Addiction is a disease that takes a heavy toll. It can have many physical and emotional effects. Marijuana addiction has been linked to increased depression, anxiety, panic attacks, psychosis, and suicide, particularly in young adults. In the absence of marijuana as a coping mechanism, these symptoms become even more extreme.
Marijuana usage has seen an increase in potency and strength over the past few years, making it particularly damaging to the new generation of teens and young adults using it. The increased prevalence of stronger, more virulent marijuana makes the effects on the developing brain that much more potent and easier to underestimate.
Hormonal shifts in early adulthood tend to shift the person toward a more relaxed, even-keeled demeanor but the opposite becomes true in a heavy marijuana user who has had an altered mind state for an extended period of time. The effects of marijuana on a developing brain can be life-long and extend far past just the laziness that is often associated with frequent usage.
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When to Get Help
Heavy marijuana use in early adulthood has been linked with harder circumstances to overcome in life including poor school performance, higher dropout rates, increased welfare dependency, more unemployment, and overall lower life satisfaction. Don’t let that happen to you – get the help you need before it takes over your life!
If it’s time for you or a loved to receive treatment for marijuana addiction recovery, then Desert Cove Recovery in Scottsdale, AZ is the place for you. The counselors, psychologists, and nurses on staff are all highly qualified to create a treatment plan that utilizes the 12-step recovery system along with cutting-edge technology to help you live a healthy, drug-free life.
The combination of traditional treatment options and today’s technology provides a holistic approach to addiction recovery that offers solutions to those who are seeking help for the first time or those who struggle with chronic relapse. The effects of marijuana on the developing brain are scary, but with the help of Desert Cove Recovery, there can be a brighter future ahead.
Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8517683  https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24173194  https://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain  https://www.thesoberworld.com/2017/10/05/growing-stoned-impact-outcomes-cannabis-adolescents-children-part-1/