Study: Pot More Dangerous to Cognitive Development Than Alcohol

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A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry says the use of marijuana may be worse on a growing brain than alcohol. Researchers said pot damaged a teenager’s long-term cognitive capabilities more than consumption of drinks like beer or hard liquor.

The study, which is reported on by NBC News (link to https://www.nbcnews.com/health/kids-health/marijuana-may-be-worse-teen-brains-alcohol-study-finds-n916296), was conducted at the University of Montreal. Researchers followed the pot and alcohol use 3,800 students from students at schools in and around Montreal. Participants took part in computer simulations that monitored cognitive development and the results of users of marijuana were compared with alcohol users. The tests looked at things like recall and short-term memory, perceptual reasoning, and inhibition.

In addition to the main finding that pot was more damaging to cognitive development, the study found that cognitive development didn’t improve even after use of marijuana was halted. It also found that the earlier pot use was started, the more the subject was cognitively impaired.

This University of Montreal study was discussed alongside similar findings from the University of Pennsylvania. NBC reported that the U.S.-based school analyzed 69 studies looking at the effects of marijuana use on developing minds. It found that compared with non-users, users were more likely to have “slightly” lower scores on memory tests, learning new information, and high-level thinking.

The article quotes a psychiatrist from the University of Montreal who said more study has to be done to develop a clearer picture of how marijuana affects the young brain. NBC’s online report lists the findings of a 2014 study in the Lancet Psychiatry that said teenagers who use marijuana daily were 60 percent less likely to graduate high school or college than people who don’t use marijuana.

The NBC report also lists the opinions of other organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, who oppose the medical and recreational use of marijuana for children. It also says some researchers blame other factors in the cognitive decline, like depression.

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