As mentioned before, cannabis has many different effects depending on what part of the brain it stimulates and how much. Some studies suggest that cannabis may help improve cognitive function in older adults, but this is typically only observed under very specific conditions.
There have been some recent findings suggesting that using marijuana during early adolescence can increase risk for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety later in life. These individuals may also be at increased risk for developing addiction problems later in life.
However, earlier exposure to THC does not seem to pose an elevated risk for long-term negative outcomes. In fact, there are several potential benefits related to neurodevelopment from consuming alcohol and smoking pot in early adulthood.
This article will discuss these possible positive and negative impacts of cannabis use on the developing mind. It will also talk about strategies for minimizing any risks while maximizing the benefits.
- 1 There is evidence that CBD can reduce anxiety and help sleep
- 2 There is also evidence that THC can increase appetite and help with pain
- 3 There are also concerns about the long-term effects of cannabis use
- 4 There are also concerns about the effects of cannabis use on the developing brain
- 5 There are many positive effects of cannabis
- 6 There are many negative effects of cannabis
- 7 There are many questions in the field
- 8 Some experts are concerned about cannabis use
There is evidence that CBD can reduce anxiety and help sleep
Although cannabis has been used for centuries to promote relaxation, focus, and sleep, it was not until recently when studies began to evaluate the effects of marijuana on brain development.
Since 1967, when researchers first administered THC (the compound in cannabis that makes people feel “high”) to children, there have been several reports about how early exposure to this drug may affect cognitive functioning.
Mostly what we know comes from small-scale observational case studies or experimental research with very few participants. Because most of these studies were conducted and published years later, however, they tend to be limited by methodological issues, such as using outdated drugs that are no longer manufactured and potential confounding factors like socioeconomic status.
Overall, these studies indicate that although regular use of cannabis during childhood might negatively impact cognition, consuming enough cannabis at an early age could actually improve memory and learning. This suggests that any negative impacts depend more on how much you use than whether you use cannabis or not while growing up.
There is also evidence that THC can increase appetite and help with pain
Emerging research suggests that cannabis may have different effects on children’s developing brains as compared to adults. Scientists are finding that exposure to marijuana in adolescence, or during early adulthood, can have lasting impacts on how your child’s brain functions. These changes occur even when individuals do not use marijuana frequently or for very long periods of time.
There are several reasons why this could be happening. One hypothesis is that repeated exposures to cannabinoids promote neurogenesis — the production of new neurons.
Neurons connect individual people to each other and things outside of you through communication and perception. Adolescent rats exposed to THC were found to have more neurons in areas of their hippocampus (a part of the nervous system involved in learning and memory) than control animals who weren’t. 
In humans, studies have shown similar results. People who used pot in their teens had thinner hippocampuses later in life, which may contribute to cognitive issues such as depression or forgetfulness. 
However, it should be noted that these findings aren’t one way — having frequent adolescent exposures to marijuana may actually impair growth of certain parts of the brain. A study conducted at UCLA revealed that adolescents exposed to high doses of THC experienced less neuron growth in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with self-control.
There are also concerns about the long-term effects of cannabis use
Over the past few years, there has been an explosion in the popularity of marijuana. It is now legal for recreational use in several states and medical use is allowed in many more. Many people enjoy smoking it, ingesting it as oils or salves, or applying it directly onto skin and rubbing in.
Many individuals believe that using cannabis can help with pain management, sleep, depression, and/or appetite stimulation. Because of this perception, usage rates have skyrocketed; one study found that over half of all adults aged 18–64 reported trying the drug at least once in their life!
There have been some studies done exploring the potential benefits of cannabis. These studies look at whether cannabis helps symptoms of certain conditions like cancer, arthritis, or neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. But what researchers haven’t been able to determine is if any possible benefits are due to the cannabis itself, or the other substances users may be drinking while taking cannabis (known as pharmacological interference).
Other reasons why research findings seem contradictory include differences in how cannabis was administered and what types of cannabinoids were analyzed. Some studies only looked at THC — which is thought to have beneficial effects — whereas others analyze both CBD and THC.
It is important to note that we do not know if using marijuana will cause lasting negative impacts on your health.
There are also concerns about the effects of cannabis use on the developing brain
As mentioned before, how marijuana is used makes a difference in what effect it has. If you are smoking through a pipe or vaporizer, your lungs filter out some chemicals in the smoke. This reduces any potential health consequences of using cannabis.
When smoked, whole-plant cannabis contains several chemical compounds such as THC and CBD. Both of these work together to create their effects.
Some studies have shown that alcohol can be more harmful to the developing brain than marijuana. Because they both increase levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, people may feel happier while under the influence of either substance.
However, recent research suggests that alcohol may actually impair learning and memory processes in adolescents.
Cannabis isn’t necessarily safe for everyone, but there aren’t enough scientific data to prove whether it could do more harm than good during development.
There are many positive effects of cannabis
Many studies show that cannabidiol (CBD), one of the major compounds in marijuana, is protective to your brain as it ages. CBD has been shown to reduce oxidative stress, promote neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons) and improve synaptic plasticity (communication between nerves).
Neurogenesis happens during early development, but it does not stop happening completely after we reach adulthood. A recent study found that at least some form of neurogenesis occurs up until late middle age in humans![@b1]
Aging is related to chronic inflammation, so protecting against inflammation may help increase neurogenesis and overall cognitive function. Certain phytocannabinoids like CBD have anti-inflammatory properties, which could be why they seem to facilitate this process.[@b2],[@b3]
It was recently discovered that endocannabanoid receptors exist within the developing brain. This means that aside from having an effect on peripheral tissues, cannabinoids can directly impact how well our brains work. More research needs to be done to determine if there are specific benefits of different types of CBD for children’s mental health, but what we do know points towards broad protection.[@b4]–[@b7]
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, consider discussing potential treatments with a doctor. Although marijuana remains illegal under federal law, several states have legalized medicinal use of CBD and other components of cannabis.
There are many negative effects of cannabis
Many people believe that smoking marijuana is totally safe, but this isn’t true! In fact, there are several very important reasons why using cannabis can be harmful to your health.
One of the most serious potential side effects of cannabis is an effect on the developing brain.
A lot of studies have shown that THC (the main active compound in cannabis) interacts with receptors in the brain that influence how we perceive time.
This has significant implications for mental health — if you use cannabis as an adult, then it could affect how well you deal with stress or depression, for example.
But what about when you start using it during adolescence?
We already know that early exposure to alcohol can increase our risk of alcoholism later in life, so it’s possible that similar processes are at work when it comes to other drugs.
Research suggests that adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to the long-term impacts of cannabis because their brains are still developing.
There are many questions in the field
Medical cannabis has been making headlines for quite some time now, with studies showing that it can help treat a wide range of conditions. But what about its effects on the developing brain?
Many people have heard stories of patients who used medical marijuana during early development and suffered lasting damage due to neural toxicity.
There is even an informal term for this – green rush syndrome.
Since cannabis remains illegal under federal law, doctors cannot recommend or prescribe it. As such, there are no official guidelines on how much THC (the main compound in cannabis) is safe for children.
So until we get those, we will just need to rely upon our instincts and personal experiences.
Some experts are concerned about cannabis use
A number of studies suggest that early exposure to marijuana may be linked to an increased risk for mental health issues later in life. These include anxiety, depression, ADHD, suicidal behaviors, and addiction.
A large review conducted by Harvard researchers found strong evidence that frequent adolescent users were at higher risk of developing psychosis than individuals who have never used marijuana.
This includes experiences like hearing voices or feeling paranoid, as well as symptoms such as distrust, loss of function due to lack of motivation, and suicidality (thinking about killing yourself).
Researchers also found some weak links between earlier marijuana use and developing mood disorders like major depressive disorder and bipolar disease.
But they determined there was not enough reliable research data to determine whether this link is causal — making it impossible to give people clear guidelines about how to avoid these conditions.