Teen marijuana use linked to later IQ decline

NEW YORK – Teens who routinely smoke marijuana risk a long-term drop in their IQ, a new study suggests.

The researchers didn’t find the same IQ dip for people who became frequent users of pot after 18. Although experts said the new findings are not definitive, they do fit in with earlier signs that the drug is especially harmful to the developing brain.

“Parents should understand that their adolescents are particularly vulnerable,”’ said lead researcher Madeline Meier of Duke University.

Study participants from New Zealand were tested for IQ at age 13, likely before any significant marijuana use, and again at age 38. The mental decline between those two ages was seen only in those who started regularly smoking pot before age 18.

Richie Poulton, a study co-author and professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the message of the research is to stay away from marijuana until adulthood if possible. “For some it’s a legal issue,” he said, “but for me it’s a health issue.”

Experts said the new research is an advance because its methods avoid criticisms of some earlier work, which generally did not measure mental performance before marijuana use began.

“I think this is the cleanest study I’ve ever read” that looks for long-term harm from marijuana use, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which helped fund the research.

Meier and colleagues reported their work online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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