Casual smokers of marijuana who are young can experience potentially harmful effects to the brain due to how the drug alters the various regions associated with motivation and emotion. The following information may be helpful for people who are looking to understand how marijuana use changes the brains of teenagers.


Young people aged 18-25 are experiencing changes all the time as growth spurts continue both physically and psychologically. The brain is constantly changing and adapting to the new hormones and developing at a faster rate than at any other time in a young person’s life. Unfortunately, marijuana use can change core regions of the brain which are necessary for day to day functioning.

Some of the changes have been identified in the nucleus accumbens and nucleus amygdala, regions of the brain which are key to regulation of emotion and motivation. This was seen in young people who used marijuana one to seven times a week. Changes occurred in the volume, shape and density of those brain regions which can signify early signs of decreased motivation or focus on long term goal planning. Some researchers suggest people do not use marijuana unless for medicinal purposes who are under 30 years of age to prevent such changes happening to the brain.


Consistent evidence of structural brain abnormalities due to chronic cannabis use in young people can be seen in brain imaging scans. The changes can happen soon after adolescents begin using the drug and remain even after a month or less of abstaining from the drug. Cognitive differences have been noted including damage to white matter in the brain which enables communication among the neurons. This can bring changes to a person’s impulse control behavior, particularly for young adults before the age of 16 years old. Early-onset smokers of marijuana have a more difficult time concentrating, planning, being flexible and practicting abstract thinking.


Marijuana producers have an incentive to keep young people hooked on marijuana. The rate of addiction is higher in young people (approximately 17%) than for adults (about 9%) who started smoking in the teenage years. Companies who make profit from the sale of marijuana do so based on chronic users, not one time use of the drug. Legalization is a challenge as it may increase access for young people who can struggle with the ramifications on the brain but also in lifestyle with decreased motivation to finish school, obtain gainful employment or seek opportunities to be healthy over the long haul. The long term effects of cannabis use on young people are still being researched but current data suggests the brain is altered in many ways which can become irreversible if a person is unable to quit smoking or continues chronic use over the life span.

Are you a young adult who needs help quitting a cannabis or marijuana habit? Call Hired Power to get information on how we can help you kick it for good.

Call us at 800-910-9299 today.