According to NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Although people of all ages smoke or otherwise consume marijuana, it is especially prevalent among young people. A recent survey indicated more than 11 million young adults ages 18 to 25 used marijuana in the past year (2015). According to the Monitoring the Future survey, rates of marijuana use among middle and high school students have dropped or leveled off in the past few years after several years of increase. However, the number of young people who believe marijuana use is risky is decreasing.
People consume marijuana in a variety of ways including smoking rolled cigarettes, smoking through a water pipe, or bong, using vaporizers to minimize the smoke, and eating edibles.
What are the effects of marijuana on the brain?
The mind-altering chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a powerful psychoactive drug that can cause a host of brain related health issues including but not limited to:
- altered senses (visual, hearing, touch, etc)
- altered sense of time
- mood swings
- impaired body movement
- Impaired problem-solving and cognitive functions
- impaired memory
Marijuana abuse can also affect brain development, cause breathing/lung problems, and increased heart rate.
Pregnancy, breastfeeding and marijuana addiction
Some associations have been found between marijuana use during pregnancy and future developmental and hyperactivity disorders in children. Studies have demonstrated that pregnant women who use marijuana have a 2.3 times greater risk of stillbirth. Given the potential of marijuana to negatively impact the developing brain, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that obstetrician-gynecologists counsel women against using marijuana while trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy, and while they are breastfeeding.
Furthermore, research by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/can-marijuana-use-during-pregnancy-harm-baby ) has shown that some babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies display altered responses to visual stimuli, increased trembling, and a high-pitched cry. Researchers believe this indicates impaired neurological development.
Later in life, marijuana-exposed children are more likely to show gaps in problem-solving skills, memory, and the ability to remain attentive.