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Experts say teen pot use may dim brain function

Experts may not be able to reach a consensus on whether marijuana use is harmful for adults, but a group of specialists agreed last week that the frequent pot consumption appears to alter the brain development of young people.

During the American Psychological Association's annual convention last week, several presenters discussed pot use among teenagers. Prof. Alan Budney of Dartmouth College said that addiction, car accidents, and chronic bronchitis are just some of the possible consequences of teenage marijuana use. "It can be just as hard to treat cannabis addiction as it is to treat alcohol addiction," he told USA Today.

A recent study found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke pot every day, up from 2.4 percent in 2013, and close to one-third of all teenagers said they smoke at least once a month. These numbers worry psychologists. "It needs to be emphasized that regular cannabis use, which we consider once a week, is not safe and may result in addiction and neurocognitive damage, especially for youth," Krista Lisdahl, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, wrote in a study.

Brain imaging studies of people who regularly smoke marijuana have found changes in brain structure, USA Today reports, especially among teenagers. Abnormalities in the brain's gray matter, which is associated with intelligence, have been found in teens between the ages of 16 and 19 who have started smoking more. "The adolescent period is a sensitive period of neurodevelopment," Lisdahl said.