MAY 06, 2020 3:16 PM PDT

Does Cannabis Damage Focus and Memory in Teenagers?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

As cannabis products become more mainstream, increasing numbers of people from every age bracket are using them. Research on its effects are scarce however, making some particularly worried about how it may affect those under 25 as their brains are still developing. In particular, concerns exist on how it affects learning capabilities such as focus and memory in teenagers and young adults.

Still a scheduled substance, restrictions remain on researching how exactly cannabis interacts with the body. So far, most data on how it works comes from observational studies and anecdotes rather than clinical trials and more scientific grounding. Some studies nevertheless exist that may indicate how the substance affects focus and memory in teenagers and young adults.  

In a study conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse in 2015, researchers reported a direct link between cannabis use in teenagers and losses in concentration and memory, ‘jumbled thinking’ and early signs of paranoid psychosis. 

Adding to this, a study from 2018 that found that teenagers and young adults who stopped using cannabis were able to improve their ability to learn within just a month. Those who did not stop using the substance did not improve. The researchers also found that much of this improvement happened in the first week of quitting the substance. 

Although demonstrating that cannabis does impair cognitive functioning when under its influence, marijuana legalization groups say these findings are positive as they show that its negative effects are not permanent. 

“These findings dispute the long-standing ‘stoner-stupid’ stereotype and should help to assuage fears that cannabis’ acute effects on behavior may persist long after drug ingestion, or that they may pose greater potential risks to the developing brain,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. 

Others however do not see these findings in such a positive light. Dr. Sheryl A. Ryan, chairperson for American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Substance Use and Prevention, said, “We still have significant concerns about the impact of marijuana usage by teens — on their emotional and psychosocial development — and data still needs to confirm more about the possible effects on brain development and physical status,”


Sources: Healthline, The Conversation

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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