A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Sciences found that chronic marijuana use at an early age seems to have a long-term effect on a user’s brain, and may in fact, lower their IQ.
As reported last November by CNN, people who started smoking marijuana as early as age 14 have less brain volume in the orbitofrontal cortex – the part of the brain that aides in decision-making – than nonusers.
Dr. Francesca Filbey, Associate Professor at the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University Of Texas at Dallas and the Principal Investigator of the study, says, “The younger the individual started using, the more pronounced the changes. Adolescence is when the brain starts maturing and making itself more adult-like, so any exposure to toxic substances can set up the course for how your brain ends up.”
The participants in the study were all marijuana users between the ages of 14 and 30 years age. According to their self-reporting, they used marijuana three times a day, on average. The majority of the participants stated that they had been using marijuana for at least 10 years.
Then, the results were compared to a group of nonusers within the same age/gender group. All participants submitted a urine sample, all underwent an MRI scan, and each one went through IQ testing.
According to the study, individuals who self-reported that they used marijuana regularly had IQ’s that were, on average, five points lower than the participants who did not in use.
While there is no absolute proof that the only factor to blame for the lower IQ was marijuana, there are significant implications that become evident.
Professor Filbey went on to say, “While our study does not conclusively address whether any or all of the brain changes are a direct consequence of marijuana use, these effects do suggest that these changes are related to age of onset and duration of use.”
The Associate Director for Scientific Affairs at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Susan Weiss, was more direct with her condemnation of chronic marijuana use, saying, “This is a complex and interesting study that adds to the growing body of evidence that heavy marijuana use, particularly at a young age, is linked to significant adverse brain changes.”
“Further prospective studies are needed to clarify this, but if these mounting scientific findings certainly challenge the widespread belief that marijuana is a harmless drug.”
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