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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parents And Teens Take Note: Long Term Marijuana Use Linked To Lower IQ

Mary Cassatt Sleepy Baby 1910
Mary Cassatt Sleepy Baby 1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As long as the baby is healthy...

There is no doubt that when you're expecting a baby the baby's health is your first concern. Ask an expectant parent what they hope for and invariably the response will be: "As long as the baby is healthy!" Once the baby is born healthy parents move through infant stage, the "terrible twos," childhood and then they brace for the adolescent years.

Safety becomes "job one"...

Through it all parents try to stay abreast of safety for their children. They read news reports about health alerts, they peruse recall notices for all items that may affect their children, they purchase bike helmets, they make sure their children ride in car seats, they encourage their children to be always "learning"; they offer books, music, baby Einstein DVDs, all the while trying to assist in increasing or at least not decreasing the child's intelligent quotient (IQ). After all, the brain is the center of the human nervous system and a person's brain continues to develop well into their mid-20s.  So it makes perfect sense that parents continue to "protect" their child from any danger that can impair the development of the brain and the child's ability to learn and develop their innate IQ, certainly avoiding anything that has the potential to stunt or reverse the development of the child's IQ.

Life happens...

After all is said and done, the truth is life happens. That is, things beyond a parent's control can impact their child's overall physical development (including IQ). No one plans for their child to be struck by car and suffer traumatic brain injury, no one plans for a child to be bitten by a mosquito and be diagnosed with encephalitis, no one plans that their child will eat an E. coli infected food item, no one plans that their child will find his/her way to an unsupervised pool or bathtub and ultimately be oxygen starved long enough to cause brain damage. The list of potentially life altering events goes on. Parents never really stop worrying or imagining "the worst", they just try to offer good counsel for their children from childhood through adulthood. That's what parents do!

Why counsel your adolescent about marijuana use...

For as much as parents never stop worrying or imagining "the worst", many will find themselves rationalizing the eventuality that all adolescents will try alcohol and experiment with pot. Sometimes parents give-up trying to find just the right words to strongly discourage such experimentation.

This week the results of a new study "Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife" may provide just the right words for parents when talking to their children about using and abusing marijuana. Here is The Proceeding of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS) Early Edition Abstract of this study:

"Recent reports show that fewer adolescents believe that regular cannabis use is harmful to health. Concomitantly, adolescents are initiating cannabis use at younger ages, and more adolescents are using cannabis on a daily basis. The purpose of the present study was to test the association between persistent cannabis use and neuropsychological decline and determine whether decline is concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Participants were members of the Dunedin Study, a prospective study of a birth cohort of 1,037 individuals followed from birth (1972/1973) to age 38 y. Cannabis use was ascertained in interviews at ages 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 y. Neuropsychological testing was conducted at age 13 y, before initiation of cannabis use, and again at age 38 y, after a pattern of persistent cannabis use had developed. Persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education. Informants also reported noticing more cognitive problems for persistent cannabis users. Impairment was concentrated among adolescent-onset cannabis users, with more persistent use associated with greater decline. Further, cessation of cannabis use did not fully restore neuropsychological functioning among adolescent-onset cannabis users. Findings are suggestive of a neurotoxic effect of cannabis on the adolescent brain and highlight the importance of prevention and policy efforts targeting adolescents."

While this is admittedly a scientific abstract, we invite you to read the Related Articles offered below to more easily understand the results of this 25 yearlong study and to find everyday language to discuss this study with your children. For example, according to the NBC News Report: "Those who smoked marijuana at least four times a week and used marijuana throughout their life saw their IQ drop an average of 8 points, the equivalent of going from an A to a B student. The drop was not explained by other drug use, years of education, schizophrenia or using marijuana in the day before the test."

A BBC News video interview with Professor Terrie Moffitt

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