New studies indicate that the effects of marijuana on young people may be greater than experts originally estimated. Today, people are becoming addicted to marijuana at higher rates than in the past, and suffering from more severe symptoms.
According to Abigail Sullivan Moore, "Even in the seven participants who smoked only once or twice a week, there was evidence of structural differences in two significant regions of the brain."
Previous studies that attempted to show the effects of pot on the brain used marijuana that was much less potent than the kind widely used today. THC concentration in today's marijuana is stronger now than ever before, which can cause symptoms like paranoia and psychosis.
Stronger pot has contributed to an increase in cannabis-related emergency room visits. In 2004, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration counted 66,000 of these ER visits. Today, that number has nearly doubled.
Higher THC concentration in today's marijuana also speeds up the rate at which users become addicted. Researchers estimate that one out of every 11 adults who smoke pot become addicted, while one out of every six adolescents who smoke pot become addicted.
Changes in marijuana's potency has also caused a change in the way the drug affects a person's amygdala, which is a crucial component the body uses to process things like emotions and memories. Marijuana poses risks to a person's short-term and long-term decision making. People who smoke pot are statistically more likely to be impulsive and do things that may harm them. Smoking pot, particularly for people in a pivotal phase of life like college, can also impair a person's ability to make wise long-term decisions.
As one doctor said, "If I were to design a substance that is bad for college students, it would be marijuana."
Smoking marijuana, even once, can lead to an addiction. THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, can easily impair a person's decision-making capacity and harm a person's ability to retain new information, have normal emotional reactions, and even hold a steady job.