Marijuana does have its benefits. Research done shows that marijuana might help reduce nausea, chronic pain, seizures and sleep apnea. But on the flip side, long time use of marijuana may lead to deterioration of cognitive abilities. Memory loss, decrease in the speed of thinking and slower processing of information are some of the most common long-term side effects of smoking cannabis.
An experiment done by Schuster et al. (2016) stated that individuals who smoked marijuana early on, had lower verbal memory. In the experiment, individuals who had started using marijuana before the age of 16, took longer to learn words as well as recall them than in the later stages. Marijuana also affected their decision making skills. Individuals who smoked up took longer to make decisions and had impaired skills compared to nonsmokers. However, this research study did test a set of population, and the observations of this study are very particular to them. No other variables like their socio-economic standing or use of other substances were taken into account. This study, therefore, cannot be generalised and is pending further research.
Alex Berenson, in “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” stated that symptoms of schizophrenia with worse symptoms of paranoia and less response to antipsychotics developed in individuals who were long time marijuana users and did not use any other drugs. According to research, the euphoria and increase of insightfulness after using marijuana is because of a component in it known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). A study where healthy individuals were administered with THC showed that there was impairment in learning, memory and attention based on the amount of doses administered (Morrison et al., 2009). Taking other substance abuse (like tobacco and alcohol) as well as childhood sexual abuse into account, suicidal ideations and attempts might also be 2.5 to 2.9 times higher in individuals who smoke pot with more likeliness of symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder. (Lynsky, 2004)
A study done by Brook et al., 2008 studied the longitudinal effects of marijuana on our brain. On the basis of the use of the drug in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, the study concluded that compared to others who did not use cannabis, a marijuana user’s brain health kept deteriorating in certain areas that were related to neuro-cognitive functioning, there were also behavioural and respiratory problems. The use of marijuana by the mother, demographic factors and childhood aggression had no significant differences in this study. However, it should be noted that this research was done only on white people, and was self-reported.
A study done by Patton et al. (2002) clinically interviewed students from 44 schools. They took into account the socio- economic conditions of the different age-groups and studied the use of marijuana and its effect on mental health. They stated that the prevalence of depression and anxiety was 2 times more in individuals who used marijuana. It was five times more in female students who use cannabis than students who did not. The association between cannabis and depression persisted even after taking into account the concurrent use of alcohol, tobacco, other illicit substances and indices of family disadvantage. Again, this research is old and was done in the span of six years.
It’s important to note that a lot of research done in this field is very unclear. However, there are universally researched and accepted results of long term usage of cannabis causing loss of cognitive abilities. Other researches like the correlation between the different types of disorders and cannabis and recovery and worsening of symptoms in these disorders are still being researched. Often, the individuals who are majorly affected by smoking marijuana are already predisposed to certain disorders due to bio-socio-cultural factors, and the symptoms might only aggravate after the use of marijuana.
With that being said, it’s still important for us to keep our brains healthy, isn’t it? Even though the use of marijuana could have short-term benefits and research does point at legal cannabis medication helping a few disorders, the long term effects of the drug still suggests that it might be a good idea to do away with the notion of marijuana being good for health.
Brook, J. S., Stimmel, M. A., Zhang, C., & Brook, D. W. (2008). The Association Between Earlier Marijuana Use and Subsequent Academic Achievement and Health Problems: A Longitudinal Study. American Journal on Addictions, 17(2), 155–160. doi:10.1080/10550490701860930
Lynskey, M. T., Glowinski, A. L., Todorov, A. A., Bucholz, K. K., Madden, P. A. F., Nelson, E. C., … Heath, A. C. (2004). Major Depressive Disorder, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicide Attempt inTwins Discordant for Cannabis Dependence and Early-Onset Cannabis Use. Archives of General Psychiatry, 61(10), 1026. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.61.10.1026
Morrison, P. D., Zois, V., McKeown, D. A., Lee, T. D., Holt, D. W., Powell, J. F., … Murray, R. M. (2009). The acute effects of synthetic intravenous Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on psychosis, mood and cognitive functioning. Psychological Medicine, 39(10), 1607. doi:10.1017/s0033291709005522
Patton, G. C. (2002). Cannabis use and mental health in young people: cohort study. BMJ, 325(7374), 1195–1198. doi:10.1136/bmj.325.7374.1195
Schuster, R. M., Hoeppner, S. S., Evins, A. E., & Gilman, J. M. (2016). Early onset marijuana use is associated with learning inefficiencies. Neuropsychology, 30(4), 405–415.s