The impact of cannabis on the adolescent compared to adult brain is of interest to researchers and society alike. From a theoretical perspective, adolescence represents a period of both risk and resilience to the harms of cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. The aim of this systematic review is to provide a critical examination of the moderating role of age on the relationship between cannabis use and cognition. To this end, we reviewed human and animal studies that formally tested whether age, adolescent or adult, changes the relationship between cannabis exposure and cognitive outcomes. While the results of this review do not offer a conclusive answer on the role of age, the novel review question, along with the inclusion of both human and animal work, has allowed for the formation of new hypotheses to be addressed in future work. First, general executive functioning seems to be more impaired in adolescent frequent cannabis users compared to adult frequent cannabis users. Second, age-effects may be most prominent among very heavy and dependent users. Third, craving and inhibitory control may not decrease as much post-intoxication in adolescents compared to adults. Lastly, adolescents’ vulnerability to reduced learning following cannabis use may not persist after sustained abstinence. If these hypotheses prove correct, it could lead to important developments in policy and prevention efforts.
Adolescence; Brain; Cannabis; Cognition; Development; Systematic review
PMID: 30680487 DOI: 10.1007/s00406-019-00981-7 SharePublication typePublication typeReview Supplemental Content —
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