Marijuana, it seems, is not a performance-enhancing drug. That is, at least, not among young people, and not when the activity is learning.
A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana – even for just one week – their verbal learning and memory improves. The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning.
More than 14 percent of middle and high school students reported using marijuana within the last month, finds a National Institutes of Health survey conducted in 2017. And marijuana use has increased among high schoolers over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
At the same time, the percentage of teens who believe that regular marijuana use poses a great risk to their health has dropped sharply since the mid-2000s. And, legalization of marijuana may play a part in shaping how young people think about the drug. One study noted that after 2012, when marijuana was legalized in Washington state, the number of eighth graders there that believed marijuana posed risks to their health dropped by 14 percent.
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Researchers are particularly concerned with use of marijuana among the young because THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, most sharply affects the parts of the brain that develop during adolescence.
“The adolescent brain is undergoing significant neurodevelopment well into the 20s, and the regions that are last to develop are those regions that are most populated by cannabis receptors, and are also very critical to cognitive functioning,” says Randi Schuster. Schuster is the director of Neuropsychology at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine, and the study’s lead author.
Schuster and the team of researchers set out to determine if