Functional consequences of marijuana use in adolescents

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2009 Jun;92(4):559-65. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2009.04.001. Epub 2009 Apr 5.


Nearly half of 12th graders have tried marijuana, and 6% use daily. This paper reviews studies on neuropsychological functioning, brain structure, brain function, and subjective and objective measures of sleep in relation to adolescent marijuana use. Adolescents who use marijuana heavily tend to show disadvantaged attention, learning, and processing speed; subtle abnormalities in brain structure; increased activation during cognitive tasks despite intact performance; and compromised objective indicators of sleep quality. Some abnormalities appear to persist beyond a month of abstinence, but may resolve within three months if cessation is maintained. Recommendations for future studies include characterizing these indices in youth prior to the onset of marijuana use then examining change after chronic use has started, and using large samples of youth with varying degrees of involvement with marijuana as well as alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs to characterize the interactive influences on neurocognition and neural health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cognition
  • Dyssomnias / etiology
  • Dyssomnias / physiopathology
  • Dyssomnias / psychology
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Marijuana Smoking / pathology
  • Marijuana Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Memory
  • Neuropsychology
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sleep / physiology