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Marijuana's Effects On The Developing Brain

Potency and frequency of use of marijuana can have long-lasting negative effects on developing brains, pediatric psychiatrists say.
Feodora Chiosea
Potency and frequency of use of marijuana can have long-lasting negative effects on developing brains, pediatric psychiatrists say.

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.

Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
Matt Smith worked for Vermont Public from 2017 to 2023 as managing editor and senior producer of Vermont Edition.
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