Doctors and researchers across the country are concerned that existing research documenting mental health risks for adolescent marijuana users is no longer sufficient. That research, while showing serious and long-term health impacts, was largely conducted with low-THC potency products instead of the much more powerful pot available in Colorado today. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “current marijuana has higher potency associated with much greater risk for adverse effects.”
The New York Times, This Is Your Brain on Drugs, October 29, 2014
By Abigail Sullivan Moore
The gray matter of the nucleus accumbens, the walnut-shaped pleasure center of the brain, was glowing like a flame, showing a notable increase in density. “It could mean that there’s some sort of drug learning taking place,” speculated Jodi Gilman, at her computer screen at the Massachusetts General Hospital–Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine. Was the brain adapting to marijuana exposure, rewiring the reward system to demand the drug?
Dr. Gilman was reviewing a composite scan of the brains of 20 pot smokers, ages 18 to 25. What she and fellow researchers at Harvard andNorthwestern University found within those scans surprised them. Even in the seven participants who smoked only once or twice a week, there wasevidence of structural differences in two significant regions of the brain. The more the subjects smoked, the greater the differences. Moderate marijuana use by healthy adults seems to pose little risk, and there are potential medical benefits, including easing nausea and pain. But it has long been known that, with the brain developing into the mid-20s, young people who smoke early and often are more likely to have learning and mental health problems. Now researchers suggest existing studies are no longer sufficient. Much of what’s known is based on studies conducted years ago with much less powerful pot.