jueves, 17 de septiembre de 2015

The legalise marijuana movement has some powerful backers and is making political gains, but ...

Marijuana Debunked: the case against legalization

Let's start with what it does to the teenage brain.

The legalise marijuana movement has some powerful backers and is making political gains. But Arizona addiction psychiatrist Dr Ed Gogek, who used the drug himself in his youth but has treated over 10,000 addicts and alcoholics during his medical career, insists that legalization would have seriously harmful consequences for teenagers and society. To arm “parents, pundits and politicians” to fight this move he has written a handbook setting out the scientific case against recreational use of marijuana by teenagers, whose brains are still developing. In this interview with MercatorNet he touches on some of the themes.

MercatorNet: Many responsible and productive citizens – including yourself – admit to smoking marijuana in the past, many, perhaps, while at university. What is the evidence that it does lasting harm to young people?

Dr Gogek: An article published in Current Addiction Reports listed dozens of studies showing that marijuana damages the still-developing teenage brain. The brains of teens who smoke pot have less gray matter, more disorganized white matter, and disrupted blood flow. Dozens of structural changes show up on brain scans, and these changes are linked to less ability to think and plan, more impulsivity, poor attention, and worse memory. Teenage marijuana users think more slowly and process less. And most of this damage is permanent; even if they later stop using marijuana, their brain function does not return to normal.

The most serious finding is an average loss of eight IQ points in addicted teenage users, of which there are at least a half million in the U.S. Losing eight IQ points could mean someone born with the mental agility to do well in community college who is instead struggling, someone who should have been promoted at work but is instead passed over, or someone who was once capable of doctoral work who instead has an average white collar job. These are huge changes, but the person might never realize what marijuana has cost him. It’s nearly impossible for an individual to see his own subtle brain damage.

School work suffers terribly from marijuana use. Research shows that teenagers who use regularly before age sixteen drop out of school at more than twice the rate of non-users. A quarter of all marijuana users start this young.

A research project by the University of Maryland School of Public Health followed university freshmen for ten years. According to one of the authors, substance abuse, "especially marijuana use," was linked to "college students skipping more classes, spending less time studying, earning lower grades, dropping out, and being unemployed after college.”

As adults, former teenage marijuana users earn less, are more likely to spend time unemployed or on welfare, and are less happy with their lives and their relationships. Teenage marijuana users have less ability to experience pleasure for the rest of their lives. No parent wants this for their children.

I first got stoned at age seventeen, and used regularly, sometimes daily, until quitting at nineteen. After I quit, I knew my mind was fuzzier than it had been two years earlier. I still did well in school, but something was subtly different. I kept waiting for it to clear so I’d again have the sharp, incisive thinking I had in high school, but it never did, and I forgot about it. I realize now that I didn’t simply cloud my mind with marijuana, I permanently altered the microstructure of my brain. That crisp, clear thinking wasn’t waiting to return once the drug got out of my system; it was gone forever. I can’t speak with certainty for the adolescent I used to be, but if I’d known then what researchers are learning about marijuana today, I might never have touched it.

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