New Harvard Study links Casual Use of Marijuana by Young Adults to Brain Changes

Published in Journal of Neuroscience : http://www.sfn.org/Press-Room/News-Release-Archives/2014/Brain-Changes-Are-Associated-with-Casual-Marijuana-Use-in-Young-Adults

Washington, DC — The size and shape of two brain regions involved in emotion and motivation may differ in young adults who smoke marijuana at least once a week, according to a study published April 16 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that recreational marijuana use may lead to previously unidentified brain changes, and highlight the importance of research aimed at understanding the long-term effects of low to moderate marijuana use on the brain.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, with an estimated 18.9 million people reporting recent use, according to the most current analysis of the National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health. Marijuana use is often associated with motivation, attention, learning, and memory impairments. Previous studies exposing animals to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the main psychoactive component of marijuana — show that repeated exposure to the drug causes structural changes in brain regions involved with these functions. However, less is known about how low to moderate marijuana use affects brain structure in people, particularly in teens and young adults.

In the current study, Jodi Gilman, PhD, Anne Blood, PhD, and Hans Breiter, MD, of Northwestern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to compare the brains of 18- to 25-year olds who reported smoking marijuana at least once per week with those with little to no history of marijuana use. Although psychiatric evaluations ruled out the possibility that the marijuana users were dependent on the drug, imaging data revealed they had significant brain differences. The nucleus accumbens — a brain region known to be involved in reward processing — was larger and altered in its shape and structure in the marijuana users compared to non-users.

“This study suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy,” said Carl Lupica, PhD, who studies drug addiction at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and was not involved with this study. “These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers, and have largely ignored the brains of casual users.”

The team of scientists compared the size, shape, and density of the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala — a brain region that plays a central role in emotion — in 20 marijuana users and 20 non-users. Each marijuana user was asked to estimate their drug consumption over a three-month period, including the number of days they smoked and the amount of the drug consumed each day.  The scientists found that the more the marijuana users reported consuming, the greater the abnormalities in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala. The shape and density of both of these regions also differed between marijuana users and non-users.

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” Breiter said.

This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 40,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. Gilman can be reached at jgilman1@partners.org, Blood at ablood@nmr.mgh.harvard.edu, and Breiter at h-breiter@northwestern.edu. More information on marijuana and addiction can be found on BrainFacts.org.

 

Yes, It’s Still a Big Deal If Your Teen Smokes Pot. And, here’s Why…

Recent Article Published in Time Magazine Writes:   With each passing day, it seems, smoking pot becomes less and less stigmatized in our society.

In a much-buzzed-about piece in The New Yorker this week, President Obama suggested making pot legal in large part to correct the vast inequities that minorities face in terms of cannabis-related arrests and imprisonment. Besides, said the president, who was known to smoke his fair share of weed back in the day, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol” for the individual user.

Even the straight-laced Bill Gates recently announced his support of legalization. And this year’s Super Bowl has been dubbed the “Super Doobie Bowl,” a reference to the fact that the teams vying for the NFL championship, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, hail from the two states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Mainstream websites are circulating marijuana-laced game-day snack recipes. It won’t be long before Martha Stewart comes up with her own pot-brownie concoction.

With all of this hanging in the air, it’s obvious we parents should be talking to our kids about smoking dope. But what are we supposed to tell them when it’s clear that “just say no,” isn’t going to cut it?

After consulting with two researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, I now know what I’m going to tell my own 16-year-old: Not so fast, buddy. Your brain simply isn’t ready for you to start using pot.

“Adolescence is a sensitive time for brain development,” says Matthew J. Smith, a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “If a teen introduces the abuse of marijuana at that point in their life, it could have consequences for their ability to problem solve, for their memory and for critical thinking in general.”

Unfortunately, this crucial message is getting lost in the pro-legalization fervor. Use of pot among adolescents, which had declined from the late 1990s through the mid-to-late 2000s, is again on the rise, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One likely reason: “The percentage of high-schoolers who see great risk from being regular marijuana users has dropped,” over time the agency points out.

That perception, however, is all wrong. In a study published last month, Smith and his colleagues found that teens who smoked a lot of pot had abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory—a predictor of weak academic performance and impaired everyday functioning—and that they did poorly on memory-related tasks.

While the study focused on heavy marijuana users—specifically, those who indulged daily for about three years—one of its most crucial findings related not to the amount of pot an adolescent smoked, but when he or she started: The earlier the drug was taken up, the worse the effects on the brain.

“Marijuana is the ideal compound to screw up everything for a kid,” says Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and a senior author of the study. “If you’re an athlete, a chess player, a debater or an artist, you need working memory, and marijuana hurts the brain circuitry.”

Breiter, who himself has four children 11 to 21, adds: “The more I study marijuana, the more I wonder if we should have legislation banning the use of it for everyone under 30.”

The study, which appeared in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, sought to distinguish the effects of daily marijuana use on the adolescent brain from the effects of schizophrenia on the deep regions of the brain that are necessary for working memory.

Although the researchers were not equating pot smokers with those suffering from schizophrenia—a chronic, disabling brain disorder—they did find parallels in one respect. “Schizophrenia is a very disruptive illness on working memory, and using marijuana produced many similar effects to schizophrenia,” Breiter says.

The scientists noted that these effects were still apparent two years after their subjects had stopped using marijuana, but more research will be needed to determine whether the neurological abnormalities in heavy teen pot smokers are permanent.

In the end, you can’t blame kids if they’ve come to believe that smoking pot is not that big a deal. The cultural cues are very strong. President Obama said he tries to fight against this by telling his own two teenage daughters: “It’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”

But I think that parents have an opportunity—and an obligation—to be even more pointed with our children by saying to them: “If you’re tempted to smoke pot, please hold off as long as you possibly can. Your beautiful brain is still developing.”

Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy

Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, August 29, 2013 Justice Department Announces Update to Marijuana Enforcement Policy Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale. In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize. These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department’s efforts in this area. Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy. For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states. A copy of the memorandum, sent to all United States Attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, is available below.

Finding Common Ground on the Subject of Preventing Marijuana Use by Children – NCTV Breaking Bread Show

Last week Dr. Christina Lasich, Martin Webb and Don Bessee joined the host of NCTV’s Breaking Bread Show to discuss teen marijuana use, and explore  areas of common ground in the desire to prevent children from using marijuana and other drugs.

To view the video on demand click the link below:

Finding Common Ground on the Subject of Teen Marijuana Use – Breaking Bread NCTV

 

Or, you can go to: http://www.nevadacountytv.org/pages/node/82 Click the drop down arrow for Programs Available on Demand then choose Interview/Talk Show then scroll down to:  Breaking Bread #3 Marijuana:  Minors & Medical Misconceptions.

 

National Prevention this Week May 12th through May 18th

This year’s theme for National Prevention Week, Your Voice, Your Choice, is meant to emphasize that prevention starts with the choices each of us make in our own lives. Through our choices, we can set an example of health and well-being for others.  With our voices, whether spoken or written, we can raise awareness and help create healthier and safer communities.

During this week in honor of prevention week, the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County is promoting the daily themes of prevention information and will Co-Host two events at Sierra College Nevada County Campus.

Prevention Week Events:

  • Tuesday,      May 14th –  Sierra College Film Showing – “Collision Course” on teen
    addiction- Doors open at 5:15
  • Thursday, May 16th“There’s a Future for You” Sierra College orientation for
    high school students from Park Ave. School.

You can make a difference! Become informed so that if someone needs help or support for addiction, suicide or challenges with mental or emotional wellbeing you may be able to help.

National Prevention Week 2013 – Themes

             

 

Great Turnout at the Report Card to Community Town Hall

More than one hundred fifty people attended the recent Report Card to Community Town Hall. We were so encouraged by the strong showing of support and the shared vision that our community be filled with youth who can achieve personal and academic success; be connected to adults and their community; have a positive vision of thier future and grow up to be healthy, productive and civic-minded adults.

The health and well being of our youth inpacts our community as a whole. With this in mind, we appreciate the many people who have expressed an interest in becoming more involved. Just in the first couple of weeks following the Town Hall we have seen an increase in members joining the coalition, letters written to the editor in support of childrens health, and more parents are becoming involved than ever before.

A copy of the Report Card and the full power point presentation of California Healthy Kids Survey Data will be posted on the Drugfreenevadacounty.org website soon. In the mean time we’ve included them both here:

Report Card

Full Powerpoint Presentation of CHKS data

National Prevention Week: May 12-18, 2013

Summer is a season filled with celebrations and recreational activities where substance use and abuse can happen, such as graduation parties, proms, weddings, sporting events, and outdoor activities. National Prevention Week is timed to allow schools to take part in a prevention-themed event before the school year ends, raising awareness in students of all ages.

Sierra College Film & Lecture Series Presents: Collision Course

This year, the Coalition for a Drug-Free Nevada County is teaming up with the Sierra College Foundation and the Pathway to Prevention team and parents who made Collision Course, an Emmy Award-Winning Documentary on the substance abuse epidemic,  a reality.

The event will have representatives from Community Recovery Resources providing impaired vision simulations and the Coalition with theI Choose” project. NEO youth will be handing out swag and discussing the local teen center’s plans for an October opening. Collision Course Co-Founder Susan Lyte-King and a panel of members will host a topic discussion and question and answer session after the viewing of the 30-minute documentary. Download flyer HERE.


WHEN: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Doors open at 5:00pm

WHERE: Sierra College – NCC Multipurpose Center, Building N12
250 Sierra College Drive, Grass Valley

Your Voice – Your Choice – Make a Difference

This year’s theme for National Prevention Week, Your Voice, Your Choice, is meant to emphasize that prevention starts with the choices each of us make in our own lives. Through our choices, we can set an example of health and well-being for others.  With our voices, whether spoken or written, we can raise awareness and help create healthier and safer communities.

Each day during National Prevention Week there is a suggested theme that organizations and coalitions can use to guide the focus of community events:

National Prevention Week 2013 – Themes

  • Sunday, May 12th – Prevention and Cessation of Tobacco Use (New for 2013)
  • Monday, May 13th – Prevention of Underage Drinking
  • Tuesday, May 14th – Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Use
  • Wednesday, May 15th – Prevention of Alcohol Abuse
  • Thursday, May 16th – Suicide Prevention
  • Friday, May 17th – Promotion of Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Well-Being

For more information contact Melissa Kelley at MKelley@corr.us or 530.273.9541 ext 226

Join us for the release of: Report Card to Community on April 18th

In Nevada County, we recognize the need to address and prevent substance use and violence among the teens in our community. Safe Schools/Healthy Students and Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County have focused collaboratively on substance use prevention, violence prevention, and youth development.  It is important for the wider community to understand the progress made, and the issues that still face adolescents in our community. Come. Learn. Participate.

 

Sabet speaks with Huffington Post D.C. bureau chief

Kevin Sabet fields questions about marijuana legalization while also speaking with Ryan Grim, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of The Huffington Post. He also got a chance to speak about our organization — and to explain why Big Marijuana is girding to go the ways of Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol — unless more of us step up to reject it.

“For every dollar we get in tobacco taxes — and tobacco taxes are high right now — … we spend 10 in social costs,” Kevin said.