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Unlike adult use, teen pot smoking causes long-term damage

Tuesday - 8/6/2013, 6:11am  ET

WASHINGTON - Adolescents who smoke pot regularly may suffer long-term problems, including permanent brain damage. However, according to a study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the same isn't true for adult smokers.

Also, there's an increased risk of youth smokers developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. The new research, which attempts to lay out the long-term side effects of adolescent marijuana smoking, was conducted on mice.

"Children who start around pre-adolescence, 13-15 years of age, tend to develop very severe deficits and these include a very high incidence of neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and attention deficit disorders, as well as, long- term permanent reductions in intelligence as measured by IQ tests," says Asaf Keller, a professor of anatomy and neurobiology with the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the senior author of the study.

But according to Keller, when the same testing was done on adult mice, they didn't suffer permanent brain damage.

"It is very worrisome and it seems to be very specific to [adolescence]. When we repeated that experiment in older animals that were beyond that period of adolescences, these animals had no permanent deficits," Keller says.

Researchers say now that a link has been established between teen pot use and permanent brain impairment, the next question to answer is why it happens.

The researchers say the study published in Neuro psychopharmacology, a publication of the journal Nature, can help give lawmakers more information as they consider marijuana legislation.

Watch the video below to learn more about the study from Keller.

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