The truth about weed and the brain
The Washington Post
It may make sense to legalize marijuana, said neuroscientist Judith Grisel, but Americans are being “astoundingly naïve about how the widespread use of pot will affect communities and individuals, particularly teenagers.” The research on marijuana’s effects on the brain shows that the ingredient that causes its “high,” delta-9-THC, can indeed dampen motivation and interfere with a successful life, as well as lead to “tolerance, dependence, and craving—the hallmarks of addiction.” In particular, the research on THC’s impact on the developing adolescent brain is “inconveniently alarming.” Teens who smoke weed regularly, studies show, have reduced activity in brain circuits critical to noticing new information and making decisions; they are 60 percent less likely to graduate from high school, “are at substantially increased risk for heroin addiction and alcoholism,” and are seven times more likely to attempt suicide. Recent studies even show that THC can turn on or off genetic expression in a teenager’s epigenome, making young users’ children “at increased risk for mental illness and addiction” years before they are conceived. Yes, it’s true that alcohol and tobacco also have caused great damage, but let’s not pretend that marijuana is “benign or beneficial.” And let’s not pretend that legalizing weed will be without costs.