Adolescent Marijuana Smoking is More Harmful

Many adolescents start smoking marijuana due to various reasons. This early addiction can be particularly harmful, reveals a new study. Chronic marijuana smokers who started smoking the drug in their adolescence fared worse when tested for brain function compared to those who started smoking after they were 16 years.

Developing Brain is More Vulnerable

The findings of the study were revealed at San Diego’s Society for Neuroscience. They lead researchers to speculate that the brains of adolescents and teenagers could be more vulnerable to marijuana’s ill effects. This could be because the developing brain is still changing and the region that controls executive function is yet to develop.

The Study

The study sample consisted of 35 chronic marijuana users, with an average age of 22 years. Twenty had begun smoking marijuana before they were 16. Fifteen smokers started after they were 16 years old. On average, all the respondents had similar income and education levels.

The Test

The participants were required to sort cards which had various colors, numbers and shapes. This test measured their ability to control impulses, obey rules, stay focused and cognitive flexibility. The respondents who had started smoking marijuana in their adolescent years, scored much lower than those who had started smoking after they were 16 years. Adolescent starters committed more mistakes and also repeated their errors, even after being informed of their mistakes.

Adolescent Starters Smoked More

The study also found that adolescent starters smoked double the amount of marijuana compared to later starters. The early starters smoked 14.7 grams each week, compared to an average of 5.9 grams by later starters. The researchers said the greater quantity was not the cause of the poor performance of the adolescent starters, and attributed it to their early marijuana use. The study researchers said age restrictions should be considered by those who are lobbying to legalize marijuana.

Why Do Youngsters Use Marijuana

There are plenty of reasons why adolescents and teens start smoking marijuana. One prominent cause is peer pressure. Children and teens see their close friends smoking pot, and start doing the same to feel that they belong in the group. Another reason is if they see their parents or close relatives using marijuana. Besides, the media also contributes and youngsters read or hear about marijuana online, or on the radio and TV. This makes them curious and they start experimenting with pot.

Many teens start smoking marijuana as an escape from stress caused by academic troubles, depression, abuse, or parents’ divorce. But, as the above study reveals, adolescent marijuana smoking is more harmful. So refrain from it at all costs.

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