Written By Roger Morgan, Chairman and Founder of TBAC

Research (Aug 2012)[1] in Australia and New Zealand has reaffirmed that adolescent marijuana use reduces the quantity and integrity of white matter in the brain by as much as 80%[2], which  can cause irreparable brain damage and loss of IQ later in life by as much as 8 points.  Lack of white matter is also a causal factor in mental illness, including schizophrenia, paranoia and suicidal depression.  Toxicology reports aren’t public on Adam Lanza, the  Sandy Hook shooter. But numerous shootings involved cannabis induced psychosis, like Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter (2011), John Patrick Bedell  (Mar, 2010), the Pentagon Shooter (2009),  and James Holmes, the Aurora shooter(2012) to name a few.

Now the focus is on gun control and more resources to treat mental illness. Why not prevention?  Given that we know marijuana is a causal factor in mental illness, particularly during adolescence, how is it that the states and federal government have not taken measures to stop the proliferation of marijuana use.  At last count there were 18.1 million pot smokers in the U.S., and probably 20 million by now.  The age group with the highest consumption is 18-25, followed by 12-17, both under the threshold of age 25 when the brain is fully mature and less vulnerable to harm and addiction.  We are breeding mental illness.

UNICEF says Canada has the highest percentage of young marijuana users of 29 wealthy countries, with 28% of kids aged 11, 13 and 15 saying they had used marijuana in the previous 12 months. Based on current knowledge about the devastating impacts of pot on adolescent brains, this is tragic.  Many will become addicted. Many mentally ill.

The UNICEF researchers studied data on 43,070 individuals, aged 18 years and older, who participated in the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Of the respondents, 12,659 had experienced mood, anxiety, personality, or substance abuse disorders (SUDs) in the previous 12 months. Overall, 72.2% of all individuals who used cannabis and 81.8% of those with CUD (Cannabis Use Disorder) had a mental illness.   After accounting for sociodemographic variables, the team found that respondents with a mental illness were 5.2 times more likely to have used cannabis in the past 12 months than those without mental illness.[3]

Not only are pot smokers adding to the number of people who are mentally ill.  They are elevating all aspects of crime, eroding our education which has now declined to 26th in the world, increasing welfare and public health costs, and doubling the number of traffic deaths.  52-87% of male arrestees in America test positive for drugs.  Two thirds of prisoners are addicted to alcohol and drugs, and one-third are mentally ill, in large part owing to alcohol and drugs.  The drug journey almost always starts with marijuana during adolescence, on average at age 12 or 13. To stop the violence and surge in mental illness, we must prevent the onset of marijuana use by adolescents.

If we prevent marijuana induced psychosis, we won’t need more resources to treat it.  We’ll have happier, healthier young people with brighter futures, and the nation will have less death, destruction and economic upheaval.

[1] Dr. Marc Seal, Melbourne University, (Aug 2012) APP article Marijuana Causes Brain Damage)

[2] National Academy of Sciences – CBS News, August 27, 2012

[3] Cowen, Mark.  Sr  Reporter medwirenes, 4/12/2013.  Compr Psychiatry 2013 Advance Online Publication.