It's a plant, so it's natural, and natural is always good-right? Think again, because both natural and synthetic versions of marijuana can cause a long-lasting, negative impact on your developing brain.
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What is it?
A green and brown mix of dried flowers, stems, seeds and leaves from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical is THC (tretrahydrocannabinol), which moves quickly through the bloodstream to the brain and other organs throughout the body.39 Marijuana is a mild hallucinogen that can also act as a depressant or a stimulant.
You may hear people ask, "If it's dangerous, why do so many people have medical marijuana cards?"40 It's true that scientists have determined that the cannabis plant has the potential for addressing a range of medical conditions. But it's also true that when you're young and your body is still growing, marijuana actually has the potential of inflicting a long-lasting, negative impact on your developing brain.
Using marijuana at a young age can result in structural and functional deficits of the brain. This could cause you to develop weakened verbal and communication skills, lowered learning capabilities and a shortened attention span.
In addition to the possible effects on your brain, smoking marijuana may also be hazardous to your developing lungs. Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.
You may have heard people argue that marijuana is a "gateway drug" to harder drug use. Some say this is a myth, others insist it is a fact. The truth is that there is a link. Research shows that the earlier you start using marijuana, the more likely you are to become dependent on it or other types of drugs later in life.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Some movies and music make "stoner" culture seem cool, natural and like it's not a big deal. But if being fit and getting good grades are some of your goals, using marijuana can become a big deal, fast. Marijuana limits your brain's effectiveness, slows your thinking and impairs your coordination. A number of studies have also shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.