Marijuana for teens can enhance addictive behavior
Teenage marijuana users are more at-risk than other age groups for developing addictive behaviors and suffering long-term negative effects, according to researchers from the University of Montreal and New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
The scientists said the findings were of particular concern because marijuana is the most-used illicit drug among teenagers, and—regarding increasing legalization and accessibility—“most of the debates and ensuing policies regarding cannabis were done without consideration of its impact on one of the most vulnerable population, namely teens, or without consideration of scientific data,” said researchers Didier Jutras-Aswad and Dr. Yasmin Hurd.
While the researchers did not conduct an original study, they reviewed more than 120 studies that examined the relationship between marijuana and the adolescent brain, including the biology of the brain, chemical reactions that occur in the brain and the influence of genetic and environmental factors.
“When the first exposure occurs in younger versus older adolescents, the impact of cannabis seems to be worse in regard to many outcomes such as mental health, education attainment, delinquency and the ability to conform to adult role,” said Jutras-Aswad.
The research adds to studies conducted in rats, in which scientists have observed differences in the brains of adolescent rats after marijuana was introduced—particularly in the chemical pathways that govern addiction and vulnerability and the dopamine receptor related to substance abuse.
The scientists acknowledged that a lot remains unknown about how marijuana affects the brain and that it is difficult to confirm a causal link between drug consumption and specific behavior, give genetic, physiological and environmental factors.