Cannabis’ Effects On Developing Brains

Cannabis’ Effects on Developing Brains

By Frank G. Shineman

For many years, most of the American public thought of marijuana as an illicit drug. Today’s reality shows us that this is rapidly changing. In 2016 there were more than 50 initiatives in State Legislatures all around the country. Those initiatives were all aimed at legalizing or decriminalizing the use of medical or recreational marijuana. The immense healing benefits of medical marijuana, with its high content of CBD’s (cannabidiols) is amazing medical doctors, scientists, and researchers all over the world. Drugs are being developed to treat breast cancer as well as psychological maladies such as Schizophrenia, all from CBD’s.

Even considering the great progress being made, it is this writer’s opinion that there is an even greater issue that is not being addressed adequately. That issue is how cannabis is affecting developing brains. It is our intent in this report to confront this problem and provide answers where perhaps, previously there were not enough.

Qualified experts, such as Dr. Susan Weiss of the National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated, “There are a lot of open questions,” about the long-term effects of marijuana use. Dr. Weiss went on to say, “There is a growing body of literature and it is all arriving at the same conclusion.” Weiss added that “An early start to marijuana consumption and a frequent use of it may disrupt brain development.”

A major part of this problem is that the endocannabinoid system is immature in teen’s brains. Dr. Krista Lisdahl of the University of Wisconsin has stated: “That system is important for cognition, neurodevelopment, stress response and emotional control.” In addition, Dr. Lisdahl stated, “Repeated exposure to marijuana can significantly decrease cellular development in the immature brain.” Krista Lisdahl, Ph.D. is the Director of the Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology Laboratory at the University campus located in Milwaukee.

Changed Brains

There have also been extensive studies conducted in European Universities, all pointing to similar conclusions. None of it being good news for immature consumers of cannabis and the future health of the brains of young men and young women. At the University of Barcelona, Spain, in 2013 Rocio Martin-Santos, M.D., Ph.D., and her colleagues, reviewed 43 studies of chronic cannabis use and the brain. The conclusions of these European scientists were not positive in any way. Consistent evidence was found of both altered neural activity and structural brain abnormalities in marijuana users. Although only 8 of those studies focused on adolescents, the findings of those eight investigations had the following common conclusion. Both structural and functional brain changes emerge soon after the adolescents started using the drug. Finally, the scientists found that the above-described changes still remained, even after 30 days of abstention.