Another study has raised concerns amid the ongoing debate over marijuana legalization, particularly among those at adolescent residential rehab centers that see the effects of this drug firsthand. The new study indicates daily, long-term marijuana use may contribute to impairment of short-term memory. When combined with the results of other studies, opponents of marijuana legalization point out that these findings support the idea that marijuana use can lead to some type of cognitive decline over time.
Marijuana Use and Verbal Memory Loss
The recent study, which was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at the marijuana use of nearly 3,400 Americans over a period of 25 years. All of the subjects were between the ages of 18 and 30 years at the beginning of the study, and answered questions about their pot use eight times throughout the duration of the research. At the end of the study, subjects were asked to complete a bevy of cognitive tests that measured focus, short-term memory and decision-making skills, among other cognitive abilities.
One of those tests was a list of 15 words adults were given to read and study. Twenty-five minutes later, the adults were asked to write down all of the words on that list from memory. Adults that used marijuana heavily over an extended period of time were able to recall fewer words overall than those that did not use the drug.
Researchers found that those that smoked pot daily for five years or longer showed “statistically significant” declines in verbal memory. Verbal memory encompasses the ability to recall words. The more pot the test subjects used and the longer they used it, the greater the declines.
At this time, the researchers that conducted the study determined that the cognitive decline might be attributed to the fact that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana, may impact how information is processed in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus.
While researchers admitted there were some limitations in the recent study, they also noted that the results gained followed others that have indicted marijuana use could lead to declines in cognitive abilities. For example, a study by New Zealand researchers has found that longtime marijuana users tended to see a dip in IQ scores as opposed to those that never smoked pot. Those reduced scores seemed to persist even if marijuana use was stopped, indicating the decline could be permanent.
Marijuana Risks Documented
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is substantial evidence that exposure to marijuana has long-term and even permanent effects on the brain. While many of the initial marijuana studies were performed on animals, a growing body of research on humans is showing similar results. Scientists have found additional support that the THC in marijuana alters way the hippocampus functions. Since the hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for memory formation, it makes sense that altering this area also may alter the way memories are stored, processed and recalled.
In addition to the cognitive impairment marijuana might cause, it has also been shown to damage the lungs and heart, particularly when smoked. Women that use marijuana while pregnant also increase the risk of birth defects in their unborn children. Many are concerned that legalizing the drug could increase its use, which could also increase the potential dangers.
Finding an Adolescent Residential Rehab Center
Contrary to the claims of those in favor of legalizing marijuana, the drug can be both addictive and dangerous. If you are struggling with marijuana abuse, contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers at 866-889-3665.