The legalization of pot for both medicinal and recreational purposes in a number of states has raised concerns that users will begin to view this substance as safe and even beneficial. This trend may be particularly troubling among young users, particularly since marijuana has been linked to impaired brain development and function. Now, a new study has found that marijuana use at a young age may also lead to early puberty, while stunting growth in young men.
Marijuana, Growth and Puberty
Researchers from Pir Mehr Ali Shah Agriculture University Rawalpindi in Pakistan compared 217 boys with marijuana use disorders to 220 non-smoking boys. They focused on differences in puberty and growth hormones, using blood tests to determine the precise level of hormones in all of the test subjects. The scientists also measured levels of the stress hormone cortisol, using saliva samples from some of the marijuana users.
The study found that hormones related to puberty, including testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH) were at higher levels in the marijuana users than in the non-smoking group. This finding indicates that puberty may come at an earlier age for the marijuana users, since the hormones were present earlier. These findings are concerning for a number of reasons, including the fact that early puberty has been linked to a younger onset of drinking and smoking.
At the same time, researchers found a decrease in the levels of growth hormones in the marijuana using group. When the marijuana-using subjects were checked again at the age of 20, they were found to be an average of 4.6 inches shorter and nine pounds lighter than their non-smoking counterparts.
Marijuana and Stress
Researchers also found elevated levels of cortisol in the boys that used marijuana regularly. The scientists theorized that the increase in the stress hormone may be a factor in the suppression of growth and the stimulation of early puberty. The findings may also support previous studies that indicate marijuana may actually exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, rather than alleviating them.
The Prevalence of Marijuana Use
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the U.S. today. Nearly half of all Americans said they have tried marijuana, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 11.7 percent of eighth graders had used marijuana in 2014.
Legalization of the drug has led to mistaken perceptions that the drug is safe. However, like other illicit substances, marijuana can be habit-forming and lead to serious and long-term damage to the mind and body. If you are struggling with marijuana abuse, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665.