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Weed: The Vocabulary Killer

Have you ever struggled to recall a word or phrase? You know the perfect term exists for what you are trying to describe, but you can’t extract that word from your brain. You might even have a perfect visual, but the verbal communication center in your brain just isn’t cooperating.

While all of us get a little tongue-tied every now and then, experiencing the vocabulary problem on a regular basis is a completely different animal. And if you have a history of marijuana use, it could be at the root of your failed memory.

What We Know

Researchers recently examined longtime marijuana users and their cognitive performance in middle age. And, surprise surprise, they found a link. According to the study results, past and present marijuana use is linked with worsening verbal memory.

Previous studies have examined marijuana use and brain functioning, but most focused on learning and remembering new information. This study, however, specifically examined long-term verbal memory – meaning information that had already been stored.

The research, completed by doctors from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it Matters

Data from 2012 revealed that 6.5 percent of high school seniors use marijuana daily. At this age, the brain is still developing. Introducing chemicals like THC, the active and intoxicating compound found in marijuana can be extremely hazardous to a brain in such a vulnerable state. Yet, more and more teens are simply ignoring the dangers of marijuana and smoking up on a daily basis.

This study is additional proof of the long-term harm marijuana can cause.

Make no mistake; the weed problem isn’t solely among teens. In fact, over the past decade, the number of adults using marijuana has doubled. During that same time, marijuana use disorder among adults has also nearly doubled. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which provides this data, stresses the importance of educating the public know on the potential harms of marijuana use. The NIAAA reports that 3 in 10 marijuana users currently meet the criteria for addiction.

With the recent University of Lausanne study in mind, these percentages indicate we’re going to see a massive number of people facing negative consequences down the road in the form of verbal memory problems.

What Can We Do?

As use of marijuana continues to grow, it is important for people to know the risks involved. With changes in legislation making weed more widely available, the need for education has never been more significant. Researchers note that one of our biggest challenges is finding effective ways to inform teenagers that break through their cynicism and “I’m indestructible” thinking.

Image Source: Shutterstock, iStock

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