New state study highlights negative effects of marijuana on adolescent, young adult brains

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DENVER -- Results of a new, comprehensive study in Colorado on the effects of marijuana on the brains of adolescents and young adults shed light on the problems it can cause.

Second hand smoke from pot is bad for children's brains and lungs. And early marijuana used by young people can have a long term impact on their ability to learn. The study also revealed it might trigger underlying psychological problems.

The state health department study is the most comprehensive overview of Colorado marijuana use by young people and its effects on adolescent and young adult brains and behavior.

See the full report and recommendations

"How much of it is adolescent behavior. How much of it is a chemical. How much of it is some other type of diagnosis that very often we know stays dormant for a while until prime time and puberty for an adolescent," child and family psychologist Dr. Larry Curry said.

He said parents, doctors and lawmakers all need to read the findings.

Wyoming student Levi Pongi, 19, died in March 2014 after eating a marijuana cookie and falling from a hotel balcony in Denver.

"It shouldn't be surprising that [marijuana] can trigger, and there is evidence that it does trigger, psychoactive symptoms, psychoactive diseases. And so it does put both kids and adults at risk," Colorado Health Department Director Dr. Larry Wolk said.

Aurora theater gunman James Holmes was being treated for some form of psychoses by University of Colorado doctors. Acquaintances have said Holmes smoked pot regularly.

"Someone who is, for instance, schizophrenic thinks that they can reduce the auditory and visual hallucinations by indulging in marijuana and in fact it may enhance it that much more," Dr. Curry said.

Legal marijuana is much more potent than the pot sold on the street. So users ingest far more of the active ingredient. "So it's that much more likely to create issues for people with mental health illnesses or who are at risk for mental health illnesses," Dr. Wolk said.

The data in this study also showed adolescent pot use leads to a higher likelihood of addiction along with impaired learning, reading and math skills.

The report also points out you are twice as likely to get into an accident while driving on marijuana and even more at risk whey you mix alcohol with it.

The committee issuing the report is made up of experts from many areas of science and the medical field.