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Derived from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa – marijuana – is a psychoactive sedative drug. Its leaves and buds can be smoked, taken in food, brewed in tea or taken in concentrated liquid form. The resins from the marijuana plant can be used to make a form of the drug called hashish. As illegal use of marijuana becomes increasingly widespread, addiction experts are concerned about the drug’s long-term effects on mental function and emotional health.

Short-Term Cognitive Effects

When you take marijuana in any form, cannabinoid receptors in your brain cells respond to its active ingredient, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), creating sensations of pleasure and relaxation. Because most of these receptors are located in the areas of the brain that affect memory, cognition, perception and motor coordination, all of these mental functions can be affected by marijuana use — not only right after you use the drug, but for up to seven days afterwards, according to the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Clinical research has not yet confirmed that marijuana use can have permanent effects on brain function. So far, the effects of the drug have been linked primarily to long-term use and appear to be reversible. If you stop abusing marijuana, its effects on your memory, learning and coordination may disappear. On the other hand, there’s not enough evidence to prove that using marijuana over the long term won’t affect your memory or your ability to think clearly.

How Marijuana Affects the Adolescent Brain

With teenage marijuana use on the rise, it’s become more important than ever to study the way pot can affect the developing adolescent brain. A study published in a 2011 issue of Psychopharmacology tested a group of 181 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 20 on their learning and memory skills. Out of this group, cannabis users scored lower on cognitive tests than alcohol users or non-drug users. The younger the teens were when they started to use marijuana, the more severely their learning and memory were affected.

The results of this study indicate that marijuana may have a more serious impact on the adolescent brain than on adult cognition. If you or a teenager you care about is using marijuana heavily, call our toll-free number for information and resources about getting effective treatment for marijuana abuse.

*New Survey Finds That Marijuana Use Among US Teens Is Increasing

A recent survey from the Partnership at Drugfree.org shows some disturbing data about marijuana use among teens:

  • Almost 10 percent of teens smoke cannabis at least 20 times each month.
  • The percentage of teens who reported using cannabis within the past month rose from 19 to 27 percent between 2008 and 2011.
  • The percentage of teens who reported using marijuana within the past year rose from 31 to 39 percent within the same time frame.
  • The percentage of teenagers who reported using marijuana at some point in their lives climbed from 39 to 47 percent.

Psychological Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana’s effects on perception, mood and emotion can cause serious problems, especially in people who use the drug to self-medicate for depression, anxiety or schizophrenia. Although marijuana is known for producing effects like elation, giddiness or sedation, some users experience paranoia and increased anxiety, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research. Marijuana’s effects on mental perception may worsen psychotic symptoms in people who suffer from schizophrenia. If you’re trying to stop using marijuana, you may experience edginess, irritability, anxiety or depression.

Although the long-term psychological and cognitive effects of marijuana use are unknown, there is clear evidence that cannabis abuse can affect your ability to remember, learn and perform basic daily tasks — like driving a car safely. If you’ve tried to stop using marijuana but you can’t seem to break your habit, an addiction treatment program can help. Many marijuana users underestimate the power of this drug to cause dependence and undermine your health. If you’re ready to admit that you need help getting clean, addiction specialists are ready to help you start a new, drug-free life.

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