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Quick Dose: What Does Marijuana Do To Developing Brains?

Answers From a Physician

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 35% of 12th graders say they have used marijuana in the past year. Danesh A. Alam, MD, a Northwestern Medicine psychiatrist with expertise in chemical dependence, shares how marijuana affects developing brains:

  • Your brain is not done developing until you are in your twenties. Early marijuana use   can stunt brain development and cause other negative effects.
  • It raises the risk of psychosis, anxiety and panic, especially in young people who use high potency marijuana. Because of breeding techniques, the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana has steadily grown over the last 25 years. THC is the main substance responsible for the drug's effects on one's mental state.
  • Young people might have issues with attention, concentration, problem solving, learning and memory.
  • It increases the risk of mental health issues and addiction.

"We're increasingly seeing young people exposed to recreational marijuana at a younger age," explains Dr. Alam. "It's not everyone, but there is a subset of folks who are vulnerable, and we need to work to keep them safe."

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