The continued legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana use in more and more states has presented a handful of legal challenges. But outside the realm of law, the changing landscape around the issue has prompted more researchers and scientists to study the effect that long-term marijuana use has on people. A recent study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that cannabis use has some previously unknown long and short-term effects on teens’ memory.
Interestingly, researchers didn’t expect marijuana to actually have more long-term effects on memory than alcohol does. Researchers found that continued cannabis usage throughout the teenage years effects four specific components of a teenagers memory: Problem-solving, long-term memory, short-term memory manipulation, and the ability to stop a habitual behavior when needed.
The scientists who penned the study looked at 4,000 students from Montreal, Canada from around the age of 13 onward. From there, the students recorded their marijuana and alcohol use while also taking yearly memory tests. By year four, 75 percent of the students were consuming alcohol every once and awhile. On the other hand, only about 30 percent of participants had used marijuana. At the same time, the study found that more people were using marijuana daily than were using alcohol daily.
Perhaps the most damning finding was that marijuana use has a serious effect on the young brain’s ability to control impulses. When looking at response inhibition, researchers noted that students who had started smoking marijuana were more likely to struggle with changing their actions to help meet a goal. So in actuality, people who start to use marijuana at too young an age, are at a far greater risk of substance abuse later on in life. While the study’s author called this a “perplexing” phenomena, it’s a step towards a better and more holistic understanding of the substance, and that’s one of the best thing’s that can be done for a generation of kids who will grow up in a world where the availability of marijuana is greater and greater.