Public Health and Safety

Marijuana, Youth & The Developing Brain: A New Study of Risks

Just released in JAMA Psychiatry (June 16, 2021) is a new longitudinal study (Association of Cannabis Use During Adolescence With Neurodevelopment) from Europe that examines the association of marijuana and its effects on the developing brain on in youths. The authors (Albaugh et.al.) acquired over 1,500 Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) for nearly 800 youth (age: 14 – 19 years) who self-reported marijuana usage at varying levels. They found that among marijuana users, there was a greater negative association with the development of the prefrontal cortex in the brain.   

This part of the brain develops last in young adults and when fully developed helps us with assessing choices, consequences and risk management / life skills. The authors note that this association to impacts to brain development is an, “…increasing relevant public health issue, particularly given evidence of increased problematic cannabis use among adolescents in areas where recreational cannabis use has been legalized.”

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