Since the passing of Colorado’s historic Amendment 64, three other states and the District of Colombia have legalized marijuana for personal use. Thousands of Americans are now able to enjoy their drug of choice everyday, without fear.
But is that a good thing?
According to findings released by the University Queensland in Australia, that answer is a resounding no.
The study, which was conducted over a period of two decades, reveals that chronic, or daily or near-daily, users show poorer cognitive performance than nonusers in areas of verbal learning, memory and attention. The study also found that “early and persistent” marijuana smokers showed an average decline in IQ by 8 points.
New research released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) further backed this claim, saying that individuals who stared marijuana use at a young age showed decreased grey matter, or brain volume, in the orbitofrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision-making and mental processing. Damage to this area can cause impaired learning and reversal of stimulus-reinforcement associations, resulting in inappropriate behavioral responses in situations according to a study released the by National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Well, if that is the case then chronic marijuana smokers should show a decrease in the ability to complete every day tasks, right? Wrong.
According to Dr. Sina Aslan, professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and co-leader of the PNAS study, the brain compensates for the loss of matter by increasing brain connectivity.
The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for grey matter loses.”
These connections, however, are not permanent and continued use of marijuana will eventually erode and degrade these connections.
Well, if I just stop smoking everything will fix itself, right? Wrong again.
Both researchers at the University of Queensland and PNAS agree that the brain shows no sign of recovering cognitive function after a user has quit smoking.
Well, I don’t smoke everyday so I should be safe from the side effects, right? Wrong, yet again.
According to a study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, the brain shows decreased grey matter in individuals who started marijuana use in adolescence before the age of 18 and not just in chronic users.
So, what have we learned from all of this?
Marijuana, while the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, has serious and long-lasting side effects. Chronic marijuana use has been linked to impaired cognitive functions and decreased grey matter in the brain. Marijuana abuse and dependence is the most common form of drug dependence after alcohol and tobacco in the United States, Australia and Canada, and it has the ability to permanently alter the connections in your brain.