What Are the Real Effects of Weed on an Adolescent Brain?
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What Are the Real Effects of Weed on an Adolescent Brain?

A little weed ain’t never hurt nobody—or did it?

Rest her soul, but my granny used to seriously think smoking “reefer” turned everyone who did it into a schizophrenic. Some studies (that should be taken with a grain of salt) do find a link, but folks were smoking dirt weed in my granny’s day, not that lab-grown contemporary stuff that’ll have you trying to eat a star or take your pants off over your shoulders. The real question is what does cannabis use do to an adolescent’s developing brain? Research suggests that early cannabis use can alter development of the cerebral cortex, and in some patients, increase the risk of psychosis.

Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the Psychopharmacology Clinic at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, spoke with the Washington Post about the effects of cannabis. He referenced a 2021 study that came to the conclusion that teenagers who partake in the devil’s lettuce are at risk of a thinning of the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s center of reasoning. In other words, teens who are notorious risk-takers are more likely to develop poor reasoning skills after cannabis use. The study saw a correlation between dosages and cortical thinning—larger amounts are more likely to affect critical thinking than smaller amounts.

Friedman also brought up a study on psychiatric effects and cannabis use. As stated earlier, there is a link, but the link is presumably due to a user already being predisposed to conditions like psychosis and depression. Cannabis use likely does not create these effects, but it is a psychoactive drug and may awaken symptoms that were once dormant.

The days of Woodstock weed are long gone. Friedman noted that in the 1980s, THC concentrations ranged from 1.5 percent to 4 percent, which is closer to mass-market CBD like Dad Grass. Now it isn’t uncommon to come across concentrations as high as 29 percent. A little weed probably won’t harm the vast majority of people, and it’s much less dangerous than a lot of other drugs readily available at CVS, but it’s best to treat it like what it is—a drug. Safe and responsible use, for adults, and cautious use for teenagers. Friedman recommends having talks with kids about family history.

Most adolescents who smoke weed will probably end up fine. Anecdotal evidence from considering history shows us it’ll make their already stupid choices a little more stupid. Hopefully these choices aren’t too serious, and eventually they grow out of making unwise decisions altogether. However, as a happily retired joker, smoker, midnight toker, the thing that I find strange about how some people engage with weed is that they think it’s a completely and totally harmless drug. Inhaling weed smoke is marginally better than inhaling tobacco smoke because it’s still inhaling… smoke. If you can overdose on water or develop a carrot allergy, anything, even if it’s “from the ground,” can be bad for you or create adverse effects—no less a psychedelic strong enough to make Taco Bell taste amazing.

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