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The Long-Term Risks of Cannabis Use

Most teens that use marijuana focus on instant gratification, but long-term use of the drug can lead to more risks than they originally thought…

Even though the public attitude around marijuana has been relaxed in the past few years, it’s important to remember that marijuana is still a drug and has health impacts that can last long after the initial high. The severity of these long-term consequences is especially increased for teenagers due to their age and the continued development of their brain. “The younger someone is when they start using marijuana, and the greater the THC potency, the worse the consequences,” says Dr. Aaron Weiner, a clinical psychologist and addiction counselor in Lake Forest, IL.

The biggest difference between the long-term effects of marijuana between adults and teenagers goes back to how the brain develops. Since the brain is still developing until the age of 25, teenage brains are impacted even more by the effects of marijauna. Studies have shown that adults who smoked marijuana while they were teenagers had fewer neural fibers in certain brain regions than adults who smoked marijuana after their brain was developed. This lack of brain development can lead to problems in school as well as increased feelings of anxiety and depression. Teenagers who regularly use marijuana are essentially putting their brain development on hold…but that development is vital for becoming your best self. Once the brain has completely developed, those underdeveloped parts are there for the rest of your life.

These underdeveloped parts of the brain can cause big problems, especially emotionally. A recent study by the University of Oxford showed that teenage use of marijuana significantly increased the risk of depression and suicidality in adulthood. The reason for this goes back to the brain development of teenagers. The critical neurological connections that help regulate our emotions are very active in the teenage years, but using marijuana tricks those connections into believing the chemicals in the brain are properly regulated. Once the brain gets used to these higher levels of chemicals the natural chemicals the brain produces aren’t enough, leading to a higher chance of depression. Many teenagers might use marijuana as a coping mechanism, but the truth is that marijuana use could very well be making the problem worse – not better.

The human body is a massive system of chemical reactions that are all delicately balanced. When you start to mess with those chemicals, the body reacts in its own ways. Always keep your brain in mind! Remember: it’s going to be with you for the rest of your life.

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