Long term effects of marijuana use on adolescent and young adult brains

Social media, youth and addiction
July 30, 2018
Heroin/Brown Sugar
September 25, 2018

Our human brain is the biggest supercomputer in the known world.

 It is still developing from the early teens to mid or late 20s.

The adolescent brain from age 13-14 to mid twenties, develop new neurochemical pathways and more structural changes in the frontal cortex of the brain that results in better decision making, intelligence,  executive functioning skills and cognitive abilities. Myelination that is formation of protective coverings of the brain structures happen at this time. The hippocampus  is responsible for memory formation and processing information, the amygdala is involved in memory, emotional responses and decision making. The nucleus acumbens portion is responsible for motivation, pleasure and rewards processing. All these areas of the brain have receptors for cannabis and its products.

When this age group then gets into use and heavy use of marijuana and the cannabinoid group of drugs, these anatomical and consequently functional changes of the brain get grossly affected in the long run.

There is an exponential increase in use of this substance in the age group of 13- 28  across the world.. The strains of marijuana available today have a higher  concentration of THC in them – about 30% compared to the 5% that was earlier. This is the consequence of legalization of the drug in most states in the United states of America and across the world.  Legalisation leads to optimizing monetization and the way to do that is by promoting strains with higher THC concentration and in different forms like gummy bears, mints, cookies with marijuana  making it more addictive and more attractive for consumption.

 Irresponsible  selling , and consumption , without actually knowing the side effects and long term damage is creating an epidemic of gigantic proportions.

Onset of use of the drug by the age of 13-16 years and heavy use into adulthood results in thinning of the frontal cortex ie the part of the brain responsible for intelligence, processing information and rational thinking . It has been seen that there is a drop in IQ by about 6-8 points. Judgement , the ability to reason and processing complex information is affected by heavy addictive use. Executive functioning is affected. Impulsivity is increased.

Impairment of memory ,especially retaining verbal expression of the same  and short term memory function and cognitive impairment  occurs because THC in the marijuana alters structure and functioning of the hippocampal region of the adolescent brain.

As the amygdala is seen to change in structure due to long term weed usage,  the traits of depression , inability to deal with stressful situations and mood swings  happen.

Heavy use and addiction to marijuana during early adolescence and early adulthood leads to lack of motivation or marked reduction in motivation to put in effort and interest in constructive activities or academics or building meaningful relationships with people. Social skills are impaired, an apathy develops and the ability to connect with one’s emotions and process them is grossly impaired,  thus hampering being able to develop an insight into oneself.

Unfortunately, across the world , weed has truly proven to be a “weed” destroying generations , making them incompetent and non productive members of society and the epidemic is only increasing.

The solution is long term residential treatment in an environment that is accepting, non-threatening, engaging, where meditation helps in healing of the brain and body and sheer staying away from the substance can begin reparation of the brain and its functions. Certain changes can be permanent and one has to work around them.

We at Anatta provide this  ambience in a luxurious setting  ; where meditation and counselign blend to treat the person holistically.