There is ample evidence that legalizing adult cannabis use has reduced the allure of the “forbidden fruit” of banning marijuana, with the use of teenagers declining slightly in “legal” countries. Part of the reason, of course, is that licensed retailers do not sell to minors. However, fears of telling the truth about teenagers and marijuana use have plagued the United States for decades.
More recently, anti-cannabis groups have continued to raise fears of possible lifelong adverse effects caused by adolescent use. While the moralistic intent to suppress teenage marijuana cannabis use may be argued, the real practice of instilling fears like Reefer Madness tends to reverse. First, they make the cannabis sensation, which makes it more interesting. Second, when it turns out to be untrue, they increase and reinforce the common notion that cannabis is safe to consume.
Researchers have recently studied the issues of lifelong cognitive loss, depression and suicidal tendencies, which found that teenage marijuana users usually do well. Other studies show that older cannabis users tend to achieve career goals, exercise more and have a better quality of life in old age.
Attention, working memory, short-term memory, everything is fine
Adolescents with moderate cannabis exposure did not show a decline in neurocognitive skills compared to controls, according to longitudinal data published in the journal Cognitive development.
An international team of researchers from Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the United States is studying the link between marijuana use in adolescents at age 14 and cognitive achievement at age 19. 15 demonstrates a small difference in neurocognitive performance compared to non-users.
The authors state: “Our data show that decision-making is not disrupted when cannabis is used sparingly and the onset of use occurs after the age of 15 … [A]After controlling the confusers, we found no evidence of the effects of cannabis on other neurocognitive variables such as attention, working memory, short-term memory, and risk-taking.
They concluded: “In summary, we find no evidence to support the assumption that cannabis consumption leads to a decline in neurocognitive abilities.”
A Canadian study calms fears of psychological impact
Adolescent cannabis use does not independently predict depression or suicidal ideation, according to longitudinal data published in Journal of Affective Disorders.
A team of Canadian researchers is investigating the link between cannabis use at age 15 and the likelihood of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts at age 20 in a cohort of more than 1,600 adolescents.
Researchers report that cannabis use is not independently associated with a higher risk of suicidal thoughts at a young age, as researchers control the use of alcohol, tobacco and other substances by subjects. In addition, researchers report that adolescents with depression are more likely to use cannabis later in life than the other way around.
The authors conclude: “This population-based study is the first, as far as we know, to examine the temporal relationship between cannabis use, depression, and suicidal ideation simultaneously for five years during adolescence. Depression (but not suicidal thoughts) predicts weekly cannabis use during adolescence. Weekly cannabis use involves suicidal thoughts (but not depression), but this relationship is no longer significant given the use of other substances, including alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. … These findings underscore the importance of addressing the symptoms of depression during this sensitive period of development in an attempt to compensate for the potential increase in cannabis use over time. “
In June, NIH researchers published data in Journal of the American Medical Associationemphasizing the link between frequent cannabis use and increased levels of suicidal thoughts in young people. However, the study’s authors neither controlled the use of other drugs nor assessed whether the relationship was two-way.
The full text of the study “Residual effects of cannabis use on neuropsychological functioning” appears in “Cognitive decline”. Further information is available from the NORML newsletter, “Marijuana Exposure and Cognitive Effectiveness”.
The full text of the study “Cannabis Use, Depression and Adolescent Suicide Thoughts: Direction of Associations in a Population Cohort” appears in the Journal of Affective Disorders.