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OASIS on the Move: New Marijuana Study Demonstrates Lifelong Neurological Impact of Use

“Persistent [marijuana] use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning,” according to a recent Duke University study.

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.

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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.

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FlyingTooLow October 23, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Why is 'big pharma' not being prosecuted? In 2009, 26,000 deaths from prescription medicines. Deaths caused by marijuana...not a single one in recorded history. Several years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder. Pain medication was prescribed..."take one capsule every 4 hours." I took one capsule. I was down for over 20 hours. When I came to, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The next time I felt discomfort, I smoked a small amount of marijuana ...pain gone, no after effects. I threw the pills out. Then I wrote: Shoulda Robbed a Bank My contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are. I would be honored by your review.
Kevin_Hunt November 26, 2012 at 06:35 PM
"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." This is utterly false. 430,000 Americans die from cigarettes each year; zero from marijuana. The brain damage claim is false, too. The U.S. government has a patent which shows that marijuana protects brain cells: "Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia. " http://www.google.com/patents/US6630507

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