As more and more states are moving towards legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, a recent research indicated its harmful impact on the overall health of the users. The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience in January 2019, suggested that smoking cannabis even once may lead to impaired memory and emotions in teens.
Past studies have focused on either the effects of the first few uses of the drug or compared the health effects of heavy marijuana use in teens battling marijuana addiction with those observed in non-users. From this point of view, this study provided a new area of focus.
Marijuana users had more grey matter
The study observed 46 teens, who reported using marijuana once or twice by the age of 14. The brain scans of these teens suggested that cannabinoid receptors (a cluster of cells membrane responsible for causing changes in memory, mood, spatial abilities, and stimulating hunger) had higher volumes of gray matter in cannabis users, even if they had consumed it in very low quantities. The study controlled for factors like specific personality traits and pre-existing differences in gray matter thickness.
The researchers asserted that there was nothing like “safe use” when it came to cannabis. No matter, how low the consumption of cannabis was, it resulted in adverse effects on the brain of the user. “Consuming just one or two joints seems to change gray matter volumes in these young adolescents,” said Hugh Garavan, professor of psychiatry, University of Vermont.
THC, the intoxicating component of cannabis
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of cannabis, is responsible for its psychoactive properties. Rising levels of THC in the bloodstream are responsible for the sense of euphoria or ‘high’, experienced by marijuana users. THC activates the brain’s reward system, including regions that regulate the response to pleasurable behaviors such as eating and sex.
Like other substances of abuse, THC stimulates nerve cells in the reward system, which causes the release of dopamine at high levels. This flood of dopamine is responsible for the pleasurable “high” that recreational marijuana users seek. However, this pleasurable feeling of marijuana leads to increased abuse potential of the drug.
Americans vulnerable to marijuana addiction
The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicated that nearly 26.0 million Americans aged 12 years or older were current marijuana users in 2017. During the same period, around 4.1 million people aged 12 years or older suffered from a marijuana use disorder (MUD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 10 marijuana users were at the risk of developing marijuana addiction. Whereas, nearly one in six users were prone to pot addiction if they initiated its use before they turned 18. Teenage users, in particular, were likely to be most affected by marijuana use. They had the highest risk of developing mental health problems including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, following marijuana use.
While statistics reveal a marijuana scare in the country, more and more states and cities are liberalization laws on marijuana legalization. As of January 2019, 29 states and the District of Columbia had allowed cannabis for medicinal purposes while nine states and the District of Columbia permitted recreational use of the drug.
Dealing with marijuana addiction
Misuse of any substance with addiction potential can cause serious health consequences. Law enforcement agencies should take effective steps to control marijuana use, especially in adolescents and teens, to prevent its potential hazards. At the same time, requisite measures should be considered to increase access to treatment.
If you know a teen addicted to marijuana, encourage them to seek medical assistance immediately. As proved by this study, even the smallest dose can be dangerous. Call ADEONA Healthcare’s 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966 for more information about how marijuana addiction can cause various problems. You can also chat online with a member from our admissions team to understand how we can help adolescents recover from teen drug addiction in a safe and secure environment.