Long-term study: Does stoning make you stupid?

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Long-term study registered significant decrease in intelligence quotient among cannabis users who consumed daily and for years

Regular cannabis use damages the brain and causes a decrease in the intellect. In a long-term study, US scientists found that cannabis apparently irreversibly damages the central nervous system and reduces the IQ. Negative effects were particularly evident among consumers who started using drugs in their youth.

The scientists led by Madeline Meier from the Institute of Psychology and Neurosciences at Duke University in Durhamn (USA) evaluated the data from more than 1,000 study participants and found that the continued use of cannabis can lead to significant impairments of the central nervous system and the intellect. The earlier the consumption started in adolescence, the greater the observed effect, Madeline Meier and colleagues report in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Science" (PNAS).

Brain impairment and cognitive problems in cannabis users The current study was based on the data from the so-called Dunedin study, in which 1,037 people have been observed since their birth in 1972/1973 and aged 18, 21, 26, 32 and 38 years about their cannabis use. The researchers also performed a neuropsychological test on the study participants at the age of 13 (before the start of cannabis use), which they repeated at the age of 38 (after a pattern of persistent cannabis use developed). In the course of the almost 40-year observation period, the intelligence quotient of the long-term stoner has declined significantly, the result of the test. “The earlier the test subjects started to consume, the greater the drop in IQ,” continued Meier and colleagues. The neuropsychological tests have also shown that "the function of various brain areas deteriorated significantly," write the US scientists. Long-term cannabis users also reported increased "cognitive problems", such as difficulty concentrating and impaired memory, Meier and colleagues continued.

Cannabis with neurotoxic effects on the brain of adolescents According to the researchers, the negative effects of cannabis use on IQ and cognitive performance were observed years after the people affected stopped smoking. Their findings "indicate that cannabis has a neurotoxic effect on the brain of an adolescent," reports the research team led by Madeline Meier in the article "Persistent cannabis users show a neuropsychological decline from childhood to mid-life". Their results are of far-reaching importance for prevention and should lead to increased political efforts against adolescent cannabis use, according to the US scientists. Because even years after regular cannabis use, the adolescent brain does not recover from the negative consequences.

Education and prevention to protect adolescents Apparently, the active ingredients of cannabis have a particularly serious effect in the growth phase of the brain. The effect observed, unlike most media reports, explicitly refers only to “excessive cannabis use in adolescence”. The current study does not reveal what consequences occasional consumption has on the brain. It should be mentioned that the regular or even daily use of an intoxicant is generally to be assessed critically and in most cases there is a risk of significant negative effects on the health and / or psyche of those affected. It has been known for years that adolescents are particularly at risk because their organism is far more sensitive to the active ingredients. In the end, only improved education and prevention can help in order to protect as many adolescents as possible from the negative consequences. Bans or sanctions have not - at least in the past - effectively curbed adolescent drug use. (fp)

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