A recent study shows that adult memory may be damaged by teen marijuana use. Adolescents who use marijuana on a regular basis, and who are considered heavy users, tend to have a brain structure which is abnormal and they tend to perform very poorly on tests designed to evaluate memory. The study was undertaken by researchers at Northwestern University, and it indicated that heavy marijuana users who smoked each day for just 3 years had a hippocampus which was abnormally shaped. This part of the brain helps to regulate long term memory, and an abnormal shape means that the hippocampus is probably not functioning properly or storing memories correctly. These indicators were noticed a full two years after the individuals ha stopped using marijuana.
Heavy teen marijuana use may damage adult memory because the brain is still developing during the adolescent years, and chronic use of marijuana may interfere with the normal development that occurs during this stage in life. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine psychiatry and behavioral sciences chair and professor Dr. John Csernansky explained “The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family.” Feinberg School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Matthew Smith, the lead study author, commented “Both our recent studies link the chronic use of marijuana during adolescence to these differences in the shape of brain regions that are critical to memory and that appear to last for at least a few years after people stop using it.”