The Effects of Cannabis Smoke on the Developing Brain
Although the fight for legalization progresses with each passing day, there is still confusion about the effects marijuana and marijuana smoke may have on children. Here are some major facts you should know.
Although the fight for legalization progresses with each passing day, there is still confusion about the effects marijuana and marijuana smoke may have on children. Here are some of the major facts you should know.
Before we get started, check out this video for a quick summary of how cannabis affects the human brain.
May Cause Learning Deficiencies in Your Child
Studies conducted by Dr. Andra Smith, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Ottawa, compared brain activity in 18-22 year olds who did not use cannabis against those who have smoked at least one joint per week for three or more years. Their findings showed how marijuana can hijack normal brain function in teens, possibly leading to permanent effects on brain development. The researchers found that brain activity increased in smokers as they performed the proposed tasks as the brain had to work harder to get normal jobs done.
May Cause Structural Changes to the Brain
A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience alluded to the fact that the brains of 18-25 year olds who used cannabis at least once a week showed structural changes compared to those who didn’t use cannabis. Researchers from Northwestern University found alterations in the brain’s emotion and reward processing regions with heavy marijuana usage. “This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” said the researchers.
May Damage Blood Vessels
According to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2014, blood vessel function in rats dropped 70% after just a half-hour of secondhand smoke exposure. Even with marijuana, which contained no THC, blood vessel function was still impaired. This could lead to atherosclerosis and even a heart attack in extreme cases.
“Most people know secondhand cigarette smoke is bad for you, but many don’t realize that secondhand marijuana smoke may also be harmful,” says Matthew Springer, Ph.D., senior author of this study. However, more research is still needed to fully discover if secondhand marijuana smoke has similar effects to secondhand cigarette smoke in humans.
May Help With Childhood Illnesses
Though marijuana smoke may not be conducive to a child-friendly environment, the use of cannabis, especially oil, can alleviate symptoms of certain childhood illnesses.
The use of cannabis oil in treating children’s illnesses is still a new treatment. Although research is limited and often contested, stories of children coping with epilepsy by using cannabis oil speak for themselves. The stories are picking up traction in mainstream news, increasing public awareness and influencing powerful people and potentially policies.
Although cannabis smoke may affect children, the benefits of using the plant through different consumption methods should not be dismissed immediately. It’s important to talk to your doctor or health care practitioner to find out what is right for you and your family and to keep track of news in the medical marijuana community.
Header photo credit: Chuck Wolk