Does Marijuana Affect Cognition In Adolescents?

There is a constant influx of information about marijuana recently, especially as the elder law governing its use are being loosened around the country. Most of these studies seek to determine marijuana’s effect on younger minds.

Cognition is a word we use all the time, but how many of us could accurately define it? Cognition is the collection of all the processes we use to procure knowledge in conjunction with how we understand by thinking or experiencing various stimuli. Because we have cognition, we can perceive or sense, and even use intuition to acquire knowledge. When experts say that marijuana reduces mental cognition, it means that our ability to think, understand, or learn isn’t what it should be.

So does marijuana actually reduce cognition?

If you ask users, then sure it does. Although marijuana affects people differently (and specific pot strains make a big difference!), many users indicate increased cognition due to use. Their capacity for creativity is greatly increased, and suddenly everything just makes sense. All of life’s mysteries are finally answered. If only.

The science is much less certain. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, adolescents who take marijuana routinely but then stop will notice their capacity for learning and memory heightened. The scientific body of evidence that marijuana hinders growth in the mind of the adolescent is nigh incontrovertible. The study used 88 smokers to conduct its research. Some of the users smoked as often as every day or as little as once a week.

This is especially concerning because, according to the National Institutes of Health, almost fifteen percent of students in middle school and high school use marijuana at least once a month.

The number of children who believe marijuana is a health risk has declined in the last two decades, and it probably doesn’t help that legalization has opened the floodgates of misinformation. THC in general is known to primarily affect brain functions that develop during the teenage years. This development commonly continues until the early twenties.

There’s nothing wrong with recreational or medical marijuana–but it is important to have all the information about the drug before one makes the decision whether or not to partake, and children seem especially vulnerable to both the drug’s effects and the social forces which help govern its use.