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Early marijuana use may disrupt cognitive functioning and lower IQ level: Study

Early marijuana use may disrupt cognitive functioning and lower IQ level: Study

01-11 | CDAH Team

Among all the illicit drugs that Americans love to explore and abuse, marijuana remains an all-time favorite. Due to its medicinal properties, marijuana is often considered a treatment option for pain and mental disorders like PTSD.

Though marijuana has been legalized in 28 states and the District of Columbia in some form or the other, it is yet to be declared legal by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Moreover, a recent study has indicated that early marijuana use may be responsible for cognitive impairment and lower intelligence quotient (IQ).

The study, titled “Depression, marijuana use and early-onset marijuana use conferred unique effects on neural connectivity and cognition,” is based on previous studies which suggested that frequent marijuana users, especially the early users, are more prone to suffering from dysfunction in cognitive abilities along with varied mental health disorders like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The study, published online in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica in August 2016, also considered functional connectivity and genetic risk with major depressive disorder in combination with marijuana use and the effect of early marijuana use and late marijuana use among American youth.

Elucidating on the reasons that prompted the scientists to take up the research, one of the co-authors of the study Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, a scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute and the Dr. Joseph Rea Chair in Mood Disorders at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University, said, “Many youths in our program use marijuana heavily and, despite past research, believe it improves their psychiatric conditions because it makes them feel better momentarily. For this reason, we decided to study the effects of marijuana and depression on psychiatric symptoms, brain function and cognitive function.”

A total of 74 youths, divided into four groups, were observed for the study. The participants were made to undergo psychiatric, cognitive and IQ testing apart from brain scanning. The scientists found no evidence of marijuana helping improve the signs of depression. Apart from this, there was no distinction in signs of psychiatric disorder between the depressed participants who consumed marijuana and those with depression but no past habit of using weed.

The findings showed differences in brain functioning among the four groups, in areas of the brain concerning reward processing and motor control. Marijuana use showed no positive effect on deficiencies in brain functioning due to depressive behavior and in some instances, it even worsened them.

Brain abnormalities linked to early marijuana use

The scientists were surprised to observe that the respondents who were early users of marijuana had extremely abnormal brain functioning in areas associated with visuo-spatial processing, memory, self-referential activities and reward processing abilities.

The scientists also observed reduced IQ scores associated with early marijuana use. Stressing on the same, Dr. Osuch added, “These findings suggest that using marijuana does not correct the brain abnormalities or symptoms of depression and using it from an early age may have an abnormal effect not only on brain function, but also on IQ.”

Genetic testing on the respondents revealed a certain genetic variation of the gene that results in Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF) was found to be more in youth who resorted to early marijuana use. The BDNF helps in the development of the brain and memory, among other processes. The observations cannot be fully considered as it was carried out on a small group of patients, say experts.

Scope of recovery

Consuming anything more frequently only leads to adverse effects. Marijuana addiction has drastic physiological and psychological impact. If you or your loved one is suffering from an addiction to any drug and is looking for the best substance abuse treatment programs in Colorado, contact the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-218-7546 or chat online to know more about drug addiction treatment centers in Colorado.


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