Editor's Note: The following is written by Dan Tarlin, a clinical social worker and Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor at Westwood Lodge Hospital, where he directs the Partial Hospital Programs for children, adolescents, and adults. He has been working in the field for over twenty years and is a charter member of OASIS.
OASIS (Organizing Against Substances In Stoughton) partners with a diverse group of people and agencies that offer various support for: families, education in schools, policy development and after-school programs.
A Duke University study on the impact of marijuana use was published recently (click here for the study) and it concludes that regular use of the drug is harmful to cognitive abilities. The abstract of the study notes that:
Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users.
To put it simply, regular marijuana use causes the brain to function worse as we get older, the more we use the worse the functioning will be, and stopping use later doesn’t fully restore functioning.
In this space in February I wrote about the harmfulness of marijuana (click here) and how to judge whether or not you have a problem (click here). These generated some comments from those in favor of legalization of the drug, and there’s a related ballot question coming up this November too.
When we talk about marijuana use, though, we should be clear about the scale of the problem. No, it’s not as dangerous as heroin. Yes, many people use just once in a while and experience few negative consequences. Yes, alcohol is more dangerous in many ways.
But marijuana is not health food; it’s bad for us in the way that tobacco cigarettes are bad for us - they won’t make us drop dead tomorrow, but they’ll hurt our general health down the road in many ways. So now add one more way to the list.