A recent comprehensive research review published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that marijuana use is linked to several adverse effects—particularly in youth. The review was conducted by scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) who compiled data from previous studies highlighting the adverse consequences of marijuana use among teenagers. The NIDA review showed that teenage marijuana use was associated with impaired critical thinking and memory functions that last up to days after drug use, impaired driving, and lowered IQ scores into adulthood. The review also suggested that risks for adverse effects are increase when the drug is used along with alcohol.
The authors noted that because older studies are based on the effects of marijuana containing lower levels of THC—the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis—stronger adverse health effects may occur with the use of today’s more potent marijuana. They emphasized that more research must be done on the potential health consequences of second-hand marijuana smoke, the long-term impact of prenatal cannabis exposure, and effects of marijuana legalization policies on public health.
“It is important to alert the public that using marijuana in the teen years brings health, social, and academic risk,” said lead author and NIDA Director Nora Volkow, M.D. “Physicians in particular can play a role in conveying to families that early marijuana use can interfere with crucial social and developmental milestones and can impair cognitive development.”
To read more about the use of marijuana among teens and legislation concerning marijuana use in this population, see the Psychiatric News articles, “News Is Mixed on Teenagers and Substance Use” and “Marijuana Legalization and Young Brains: Time for Serious Study.”