A new study has found that the cognition skills of teens who quit smoking pot improves very quickly once they are off the drug.
The findings undermines the ages-old claim from pot supporters that the drug is entirely harmless.
A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana — even for just one week — their verbal learning and memory improve. The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning.
A National Institutes of Health survey also recently found that pot use among teens has soared.
This is probably not surprising since so many states are starting to legalize marijuana use on a variety of levels from medicinal-only to outright recreational use.
Of course, none of these states allow teens to legally smoke pot, but the fact that a growing number of people are claiming that pot is harmless is surely a contributing factor in the growing use of the drug among teens.
Indeed, the NPR report goes on to note:
At the same time, the percentage of teens who believe that regular marijuana use poses a great risk to their health has dropped sharply since the mid-2000s. And legalization of marijuana may play a part in shaping how young people think about the drug. One study noted that after 2012, when marijuana was legalized in Washington state, the number of eighth-graders there that believed marijuana posed risks to their health dropped by 14 percent.
Despite the claims of pot supporters, though, researchers are worried about the growing use of the drug among teens whose brains are still growing and developing.
Researchers are particularly concerned with marijuana use among the young because THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, most sharply affects the parts of the brain that develop during adolescence.
“The adolescent brain is undergoing significant neurodevelopment well into the 20s, and the regions that are last to develop are those regions that are most populated by cannabis receptors and are also very critical to cognitive functioning,” says Randi Schuster. Schuster is the director of neuropsychology at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine and the study’s lead author.
The researchers added: “For an adolescent sitting in their history class learning new facts for the first time, we’re suspecting that active cannabis users might have a difficult time putting that new information into their long-term memory.”
Finally, they noted that their research seemed to show that brain recovery is possible after kids stop using the drug.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.