Young Brains on Drugs

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Science  09 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6184, pp. 557
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254989

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The debates over legalization, decriminalization, and medical uses of marijuana in the United States are missing an essential piece of information: scientific evidence about the effects of marijuana on the adolescent brain. Much is known about the effects of recreational drugs on the mature adult brain, but there has been no serious investigation of the risks of marijuana use in younger users. In April 2014, a controversial study* suggested that “casual” use of marijuana is associated with structural abnormalities in the brains of young people (aged 18 to 25), particularly in regions vital to emotion, motivation, and decision-making. The fact that the findings are preliminary and disputed indicates that rigorous research is needed to inform discussions about the public health benefits and risks of legalized marijuana.