MASSACHUSETTS: Researchers from Northwestern University reported Monday that chronic teenage use of marijuana contributes to changes in a person’s brain structure to resemble that of a person with schizophrenia, often resulting in memory issues.
Release of the research comes about a week after Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana use for Uruguayans 18 and older, and after months of increased support from the general American public to end the prohibition of marijuana, prompting some to wonder if the release of this research is a last ploy to keep marijuana illegal?
Published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, the study does not indicate whether marijuana use is the cause of the brain abnormalities, or if the consumption of the substance is merely correlated to the structural brain changes. But that hasn’t stopped the study’s authors from arguing that teenage use of marijuana not only affects a person’s memory, but also often leads to poor academic performance and a decline in an individual’s everyday functioning.
“We see that adolescents are at a very vulnerable stage neurodevelopmentally,” said Matthew Smith, who led the research team at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “And if you throw stuff into the brain that’s not supposed to be there, there are long-term implications for their development.”
Smith and his fellow researchers said that based on the study’s results, marijuana should not be decriminalized, let alone legalized in the U.S. — since marijuana is already the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States — reasoning that lax laws may only lead to greater use of the drug.
“The abuse of popular street drugs, such as marijuana, may have dangerous implications for young people who are developing or have developed mental disorders,” said co-senior study author John Csernansky, M.D., chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Though the mainstream media appears to have latched on to this particular study linking teenage marijuana use to a possible mental health illness and renewing the debate on the safety of pediatric medical marijuana, this is not the first study questioning youth usage — a fact even the researchers themselves acknowledged in their study.
The study isn’t even the only one to examine youth usage and schizophrenia in the last month.
Researchers at Harvard University published a study last week that had the opposite findings of this study — that marijuana use doesn’t cause or lead to schizophrenia. But as Paul Armentano, deputy director of the legalization advocacy group the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told MintPress, the media failed to largely report on that study or link the two together.