Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Psychologists warned that teenagers and young adults who frequently smoke marijuana risk developing cognitive decline, poor attention and memory, and decreased intelligence quotient (IQ).
Krista Lisdahl, PhD, director of the brain imaging and neuropsychology lab at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, raised the alarm the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Her discussion titled “Neurocognitive Consequences of Chronic Marijuana Use: Preventing Early Onset Is Critical” cited a 2012 study showing that 6.5 percent of high school seniors reported smoking marijuana daily, up from 2.4 percent in 1993.
“It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially in youth,” said Lisdahl during the discussion on the public health implications of marijuana legalization at the convention.
People who have become addicted to marijuana can lose an average of six IQ points by adulthood, Lisdahl said citing a 2012 longitudinal study of 1,037 participants who were followed from birth to age 38.
Brain imaging studies of regular marijuana users have shown significant changes in their brain structure, particularly among adolescents, Lisdahl said. Abnormalities in the brain’s gray matter, which is associated with intelligence, have been found in 16- to 19-year-olds who increased their marijuana use in the past year, she said. These findings remained even after researchers controlled for major medical conditions, prenatal drug exposure, developmental delays and learning disabilities, she added.
“When considering legalization, policymakers need to address ways to prevent easy access to marijuana and provide additional treatment funding for adolescent and young adult users,” she adivsed.
Lisdahl also recommended that legislators consider regulating levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the major psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in order to reduce potential neurocognitive effects.
Current treatments for marijuana addiction among adolescents, such as brief school interventions and outpatient counseling, can be helpful, said Alan Budney, PhD, of Dartmouth College.
Start Fresh Program (www.startfreshprogram.com), an alcohol and opioid addiction therapy licensed to rehab clinics by BioCorRx Inc. (OTCQB: BICX), can be considered in treating marijuana addiction. The program has two components, medication through biodegradable Naltrexone implant and life coaching.
The implant, which is embedded under the patient’s skin through a medically-supervised outpatient procedure, successfully curbs the patient’s physical cravings to alcohol and opioids. The implant prevents addicts from experiencing a euphoric high during a relapse, discouraging them from taking alcohol or prescription opioids in the future.