Does Marijuana Cause Brain Damage?

Marijuana Brain Damage

Written By: Molly Groo

Molly is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Case Manager and Vocational Services. She has a Bachelor’s in International Relations, is a Certified Addiction Counselor, and it’s currently working towards her Master’s in Social Work. Molly’s experience allows her to provide expert knowledge about solution-based methods to help people in recovery maintain long-term sobriety.
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Molly. "Does Marijuana Cause Brain Damage?." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on Jan 13, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/teenage-marijuana-abuse-linked-to-brain-damage/.

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Published on Jan 13, 2020 | Drug Addiction, Marijuana Addiction

Dealing with teenage marijuana abuse may seem like a lower priority than drinking or prescription pill abuse. However, research shows that adolescent marijuana abuse can lead to severe and long-term damage. Besides, recent research points to potential links between marijuana and brain damage, particularly among teenage users. 

What Research Says

There have been many studies on marijuana’s impact on the brain. Teenage marijuana abuse is especially concerning. This is because studies show that the earlier someone begins using marijuana, the more severe the consequences. However, new research analyzing marijuana’s long-term effects on the brain are pointing to structural and functional changes that are quite scary.

At this time, several THC-based medications have been recognized by the FDA to treat pain and other various conditions. Additionally, the medical community continues to examine the medicinal properties of different elements found in the cannabis plant, such as cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive known for its effectiveness in treating pain and other conditions. It’s also necessary to understand that marijuana potency has increased over the years, thus increasing the risk of marijuana addiction to frequent users.

Marijuana User Brain

High Marijuana Consumption and Brain Damage

Research suggests that those who engage in heavy marijuana use can have severe degenerative changes in their brain. The study findings suggest that chronic and heavy marijuana use may cause cognitive decline and brain damage. Researchers added that young people and teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of marijuana, mostly because their brains are still developing.

The researchers found that heavy use of marijuana affects the brain in several regions, including tissues deep inside the brain and nerve fibers in the brain. These results are concerning as marijuana continues to become legal for medical and recreational uses in many states.

Another recent medically reviewed study of marijuana use for long periods of time, and the brain highlights this last effect. According to the research, teenage marijuana abuse is linked to changes in the way the brain and body process stress. Heavy use of the drug, especially at a young age, can result in anxiety and increased stress hormones. What this means is a higher risk of impulsivity, poor judgment, and other issues that can lead to severe consequences- especially for teenagers.

Animal research indicates that marijuana exposure leads to cognitive impairments and structural changes in the brain. It also shows that THC altered their reward system; increasing the animal’s likelihood to self-administer other drugs like heroin when given the opportunity. Studies believe that marijuana use among adolescents reduces the volume of specific brain regions responsible for functions like memory, learning, and impulse control. However, these effects depend on how long and how often people use marijuana.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Addressing teenage marijuana users is essential. Early use of drugs can result in lifelong addiction, learning problems, and mental health issues, we can’t ignore it. To give young people the best chance of having a healthy and prosperous life, we have to ensure we are using prevention, education, and treatment.

To educate teens and prevent early marijuana use, having open conversations is essential. Teenagers who are armed with the facts and aware of the consequences are more likely to avoid drug use.

While rare, marijuana use disorder, chronic users are at risk of developing an addiction. The latest data suggest that at least 30% of those who smoke marijuana have some degree of dependency. Those who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop marijuana addiction than those who start using it as adults. 

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

There’s no doubt marijuana addiction can be challenging to fight, especially with the substance becoming legal in so many states. But it isn’t impossible. Anyone who chooses to quit marijuana needs to find the right support system to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Thus, finding a partial hospitalization program (PHP) that monitors the detox process is paramount for a controlled and supervised scenario. 

Many addiction treatment centers count with addiction specialists that can guide people through their recovery. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug rehab programs include:

Medical Detox: In this clinically supervised detox process at the rehab center, we ensure the patient’s safety and make the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and using medication-assisted treatment services to guarantee a complete detoxification process. 

Intensive Outpatient Programs: When patients are looking to seek addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving, IOPs are a more flexible option that still gives people access to the help they need. 

Group Therapy: Recovering addicts need to build a healthy support system that encourages their recovery and sobriety. Group therapy gives them a safe space to foster these relationships and continue working through their recovery after leaving inpatient treatment programs. 

Long-term Recovery Programs: With long-term recovery assistance, patients can have the ongoing support they need to maintain long-lasting sobriety. Recovery programs are crucial to relapse prevention. 

Get Help Now

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol and drug abuse, ask for help immediately. Please, call Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

We offer unique and personalized treatment plans because we believe no two addictions are alike. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it. Please, whether you or a loved one is thinking about starting addiction treatment, don’t delay it. Start your addiction treatment journey today. 

🛈 This page’s content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or another qualified health provider with any medical condition questions—full medical disclaimer.

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