Teens who start smoking marijuana early could be creating devastating impacts on their health, a new study reveals.
Scientists say that those who begin smoking the drug at age 15 or younger may suffer long-term cognitive impairment and physical illnesses.
But those who don’t smoke until age of 21 are unlikely to develop a lifelong habit, or barely smoke pot at all.
The study, conducted at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, looked at data from the 2013 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey, and two others, to determine the effects of cannabis use on self-reported physical and mental health.
While the report cites other studies demonstrating the negative impacts of marijuana, it’s the first to look so closely at the age of first use.
In terms of overall effects, the study confirmed that marijuana does affect people’s physical and mental health when they being smoking at a young age.
Particularly, when use began below age 15, the drug was found to cause cognitive impairment, memory loss, diminished IQ, limited educational success and likelihood for developing mental illness.
Those who began smoking marijuana at age 17 or younger had an average 62.5 percent lower chance of receiving a high school degree.
This comes not long after a US study this month found that students who smoke high amounts of cannabis have lower grades and perform worse at school.
Physically, early users also suffered higher rates of respiratory diseases and certain cancers.
Researchers say that early use is reported to increase the likelihood of long-term habitual use.
On the other hand, the researchers found that individuals who do not smoke marijuana before the age of 21 almost never use it.
The Canadian Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommends that pot use be restricted to those who are age 18 or older.
But the researchers say that educational programs, counseling services and a distribution system could help minimize use by young people.