Marijuana's Effects On The Developing Brain

May 2, 2019

Doctors, psychiatrists and other health professionals say marijuana can be very damaging to young and developing brains and that they're seeing young people with increasingly negative effects from consuming the drug. 

“There is now very convincing science that cannabis is just not good for developing brains” Dr. David Rettew told Vermont Edition.

Rettew directs pediatric psychiatry at UVM's Larner College of Medicine. He’s also the medical director for the Vermont Department of Mental Health’s Child, Adolescent and Family Division.

He says the most significant findings show an increased risk of developing psychotic symptoms.

“It’s been calculated that cannabis doubles or maybe triples the risk of developing a psychotic illness later in life," Rettew notes. "And that risk may be higher with the higher potency cannabis that’s being used now, and that the risk is even more elevated when use starts early and the use is more frequent.”

Some marijuana users experience psychotic episodes directly after using the drug and Rettew says they’re at the highest risk of developing long-term psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.

Rettew says he wants the public to have knowledge of the real impacts of marijuana use—regardless of the politics and policies around cannabis legalization.

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about what we know about cannabis and the developing brain.

Broadcast live on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.