Study links on teen cannabis use and impaired memory


Marijuana continues to be the most popular illicit drug nationwide with adolescents and young adults still being the most common users. Yet a new study from Northwestern University had determined that teenagers who use marijuana could have long-term memory difficulties as adults later in life. The research states that the specific brain area affected is the hippocampus. Abnormalities are especially possible in brains that are still developing, as in the case of an adolescent.

Study findings

The teens in the study who smoked marijuana for a greater period showed a more abnormally developed hippocampus. The neurons of this brain region could possibly be affected, along with areas that are responsible for memory. The participants started smoking marijuana between the ages of 16 and 17 on a day to day basis over a three-year period. Following this, young people who did not smoke marijuana performed better on long-term memory tests. However, a longitudinal study is still required to better illustrate the differences in brain structure and the ability to remember information.

Legal status

The research also mentions current changes in state law regarding marijuana use. This includes 23 states that have legalized the substance for medical use and four that have legalized it for recreational use. While laws regarding marijuana will likely continue to change, concerned parents should continue to use discipline as they best see fit for their children. Others may instead choose to simply warn their teen of the legal troubles and health complications that may result. The implication is that teens should learn how to accept adult responsibility for the consequences of using marijuana.

Signs of marijuana use

For those parents who are worried about their teens smoking marijuana, it can be helpful to know how to identify signs of marijuana use. There are a number of indicators that an adolescent could be under the influence of marijuana. These can include both physical and mental signs including the following:

Physical signs of marijuana use

  • Blood shot eyes
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Increased heat rate
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia such as a pipe or joint
Psychological signs of marijuana use

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Feelings of anxiety or paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Heightened sensory perception
  • Trouble concentrating

Adapting to the growth of marijuana use

In reality, many teens will try marijuana at some point or another. In 2014 alone up to 6.5 percent of eighth graders, 16.6 percent of 10th graders and 21.2 percent of 12th graders had used marijuana in the past month. While marijuana may not be as harmful as something like heroin, it still can present troubles especially when the individual decides to start using the drug regularly. If so, the odds of dependence, at least in a psychological sense, is possible. Parents should sit their teens down and share their points of view, making sure that teens are informed about the substance they are using and the adverse effects that may be attached to it. Whether parents choose to share their own experiences with the drug is up to them, but teens need to be aware of how drugs can negatively affect their livelihood, including lowered willpower in meeting academic goals, as well as career goals in the future.

If family or friends know a teen who is struggling with dependence to marijuana or other controlled substances, they can contact White River Academy to help set treatment in motion. White River provides a safe environment for treatment of substance abuse, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis with our residential boarding school. To learn more about our programs or our curriculum please contact our team today at 866-520-0905.

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