The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published new information in the June 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine discussing the health risks linked to marijuana use in teens. The paper describes previous findings and reiterates the harmful effects that prolonged smoking has on teens. 

“It is important to alert the public that using marijuana in the teen years brings health, social, and academic risk,” said lead author and NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. “Physicians in particular can play a role in conveying to families that early marijuana use can interfere with crucial social and developmental milestones and can impair cognitive development.”

The research also suggests that since a teen brain is growing rapidly during this stage of life, marijuana use effects teens more. Critical thinking skills and memory functions are also impaired and their deficits will continue to show even a few days after use. According to a news release, a NIDA-supported 2013 Monitoring the Future Survey found that 6.5 percent of 12th graders reported daily or near-daily marijuana use. And 60 percent of teens don’t think that regular marijuana use can be harmful.

The news release stated that the authors of this review looked into areas where little research had been previously conducted. Those areas included the consequences of secondhand marijuana smoke, the long-term impact of prenatal marijuana exposure, the therapeutic potential of the individual chemicals found in the marijuana plant, and the effects of marijuana legalization policies on public health. The review emphasizes that marijuana is likely to become more widely used for medical and recreational purposes as more states push for its legalization. With this push, the researchers said,  will also be an increase in teens suffering from negative health consequences of marijuana use.

Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States. Some advocates argue that legalizing it would increase revenue and decrease crimes associated with it. However, those opposing argue that the legalization would open doors to other illegal drugs. In a  CNBC roundup as to why marijuana should not be legalized the author points out that “marijuana is currently the leading cause of substance dependence other than alcohol in the U.S,” leading to other abuse issues and dependence.

The review also points out that NIDA watches legislative decisions closely to monitor the changes they will need to make regarding drug policy.