Young Brains on Marijuana: Risky Business

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Okay, okay, we all know: Road safety folks worry about  marijuana-high  drivers on the road right there along with intoxicated travelers, but worries shouldn’t end there. Indeed, last year, a Journal of the American Heart Association came out with an article about French  medical  scientists who concluded that, “The recreational use of  marijuana  may result in cardiovascular-related complications and possibly even death among young and middle-aged adults.”

Says Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at the Zucker-Hillside Hospital, “In addition to cardiovascular disorders, the plant has been linked to addiction, lung cancers, and neuro-cognitive problems, and these concerns got pushed aside as the pain-control issue was pushed to the front.”

He also said this: “Adolescent  marijuana  users are more likely to develop  marijuana  dependence.” That statement is underscored by research findings at both Harvard and Northwestern Universities that young adult casual users “develop significant abnormalities in two keys brain regions important to emotion and motivation.”

Nevertheless, if memory serves me, last year, Obama suggested that  marijuana  is no more dangerous than alcohol. And, although, under federal law, it’s classified as a Schedule I drug, aka “the most dangerous,” Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia have already legalized it; seven states are waiting in the wings with ballot initiatives set for 2016.

In the meantime, according to a July Gallup poll, 44% of Americans have tried  marijuana , plus about one in ten of us currently smoke it. You can almost hear the dollars piling up. But, writes news.mic’s Chris Miles, “How much could  marijuana  sales net if legalization went national? There are a variety of estimates, but when you put the all together, you get a range of $10 billion to more than $120 billion a year.”

Not too shabby, but back to the business at hand.

In Pennsylvania, legalizing  medical   marijuana  has sort of come to a halt in the House Health Committee, basically all because of just one man: the chairman, Representative Matt Baker. His take on the issue: “I’ve had  marijuana  bills in my committee before, and I’ve always opposed them and never moved them. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone in Harrisburg that I am not an advocate of approving an illegal drug under federal law such as  marijuana , which has not been proven to be absolutely safe and effective.”

And, although some 85% of residents favor its medical use, Baker says, “We need to leave it up to the FDA. As long as it’s an illegal drug, which it is at the federal level, we have no business of legislating what medicine is in Pennsylvania.” Moreover, as far as he’s concerned, there’s no difference between  medical   marijuana  and  marijuana  and says that it’s also never actually been defined as medicine.

Just possibly then, at least when it comes to kids’ usage, he might be right to be cautious. That’s reportedly because, medical or otherwise, there’s a definite downside. Indeed, says Dr. Sharon Levy of Boston’s Children’s Hospital: “Smoking  marijuana  has all the known side-effects of smoking tobacco except nicotine addiction. So a heavy and early smoker of  marijuana  is increasing the probability of chronic lung disease and cancer as he or she builds up ‘pack-years.'”

And did you know that pot sold on the street is reportedly more than twice as strong as it was 15 years ago? Plus, legalizing it makes it more readily available to young people, and dangers lurk. Gary A. Emmett, M.D. explains that the drug affects the brain’s pleasure centers and causes “relaxation followed by excitation.” However, since the relaxation phase lasts so long, when the excitement stage finally sets in, most teens evidently don’t associate it with the  marijuana . Moreover, in the long-term, it also affects early users differently than it does those over 18.

Plus, when it comes to the young, Dr. Emmett adds that:

  1. “Early  marijuana  users have less white matter in their brains, and the total size of the brain is smaller. White matter affects how the brain learns and functions.
  2. There are less connections of one brain cell to another resulting in slowing thinking.
  3. Early use is strongly associated with schizophrenia and other psychic and anxiety disorders. It is very difficult to prove that  marijuana  causes the disorder or just used as a self-treatment.
  4. Heavy and/or prolonged use leads to lower IQ’s and serious memory disorders.”

No wonder, then, that even pot supporters suggest putting on the brakes when it comes to the under-21 set. Yes, a Partnership at Drugfree.org (formerly Partnership for a Drug-Free America) survey of 1,200 parents with kids ages 10 to 19 found that:

  • 35% favored legalizing  marijuana  for recreational use
  • 46% said it should be decriminalized
  • 70% supported legalizing it for medical purposes

At the same time, though, while about 50% of these same parents admitted to having used pot…

  • About 90% of the moms and 94% of the dads say the legal age for  marijuana  use should be 21;
  • About 90% of the moms and 91% of the dads say it should be illegal to provide it to underage users at home;
  • About 95% of the moms and 96% of the dads say it should be prohibited in public places, just like bans on smoking;
  • About 88% of the moms and 90% of the dads think advertising it should be banned;
  • About 90% of the moms and 85% of the dads agree that it can do significant harm to teens’ still-developing brains.

So, what’s your bottom line?

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Source by Carol Josel