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J Clin Psychiatry 2018;79(6):17m11977m 10.4088/JCP.17m11977 © Copyright 2018 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.

Objective: Associations between adolescent cannabis use and poor neurocognitive functioning have been reported from cross-sectional studies that cannot determine causality. Prospective designs can assess whether extended cannabis abstinence has a beneficial effect on cognition.

Conclusions: This study suggests that cannabis abstinence is associated with improvements in verbal learning that appear to occur largely in the first week following last use. Future studies are needed to determine whether the improvement in cognition with abstinence is associated with improvement in academic and other functional outcomes.

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October 2018

Marijuana use causes more long-term damage to teen brains than alcohol use, according to a new study entitled “A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive Development.”

The study – completed by researchers at the University of Montreal – followed 3,800 Montreal teens over the course of four years. As part of the study, teen participants were questioned about their marijuana and alcohol use, and took computer-based cognitive tests.

They found that marijuana had more of an effect on the teens’ skills, memory and behavior than alcohol… Even after students reported stopping marijuana, their cognition did not improve.

“Cannabis causes cognitive impairment and delayed cognitive development in adolescents," Patricia Conrad, the lead author and professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal, told NBC News. “This study focuses on the neuropsychological effects of cannabis. We think it’s important because it is linked to how someone functions in life.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. 

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Marijuana can be incredibly easy for kids to sneak into school, but now some school districts across the country are using a new gadget to spot it in just seconds. TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen heads to Colorado, where marijuana is legal, to show viewers how the new “test kit” works. 

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Frequent users of cannabis may have 'disabling' withdrawal symptoms, researchers warn.

This condition is included in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which was published in 2013.

According to the DSM-5, a formerly frequent user of the drug has cannabis withdrawal syndrome when they experience at least three of the following symptoms within a week from cessation:

  • irritability or hostility
  • nervousness or anxiety
  • poor sleep
  • loss of appetite
  • restlessness
  • feelings of depression
  • shakiness or tremors
  • sweating
  • fever
  • headaches

Withdrawal linked with psychiatric disorders

The researchers started from interviews with 36,309 participants who registered for the 2012–2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, a national survey that takes into consideration clinically diagnosed cannabis withdrawal syndrome.

For the study analysis, the investigators used data collected from 1,527 participants who identified as frequent cannabis users. This means that they used cannabis at least three times per week for 12 months before they took part in the interview.

Cannabis Use Actually Makes the Brain Age Faste

In their study paper, which appears in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the researchers report that, according to their analysis, 12 percent of people who frequently smoke marijuana experience cannabis withdrawal syndrome.

These symptoms were associated with a number of psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders (social phobia, agoraphobia, and panic disorder), personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Of all the possible withdrawal symptoms, most frequently, the participants reported experiencing nervousness or anxiety (76 percent of the respondents), hostility (72 percent), sleep problems (68 percent), and depressed mood (59 percent of the respondents).

A potentially dangerous outcome.

"Cannabis withdrawal syndrome is a highly disabling condition." Prof. Deborah Hasin

She goes on to explain, "The syndrome's shared symptoms with depressive and anxiety disorders call for clinician awareness of cannabis withdrawal symptoms and the factors associated with it to promote more effective treatment among frequent cannabis users."

She is also particularly worried by the fact that new ways of using cannabis, such as in electronic cigarettes, may mean that users are not fully aware of just how much they are actually ingesting.

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