A science lesson offered on what pot use does to kids' brains

SEATTLE -- You often hear don’t do drugs or never do drugs. But one scientific researcher says those lines rarely work with young kids. So she is taking a different approach.

It`s a science lesson about how pot use affects the young brain.

Staci Gruber -- an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the director of a group that studies the symptoms of psychiatric disorders and substance use -- is not telling kids never to smoke marijuana.

“We never say never because it almost never works, almost never,” Gruber said.

She says if kids choose to smoke, they need to wait awhile.

Gruber spoke in front of an audience of kids and their parents Thursday night in Seattle.

“The brain develops from the back to the front, from the bottom to the top,” Gruber said.

The frontal lobe, a critical part of the brain, is the last to develop in young kids. Gruber says pot use can cause long-term damage to the brain affecting cognitive skills.

“Being able to make good and sound decisions, especially during stressful times, being able to use feedback in real time and change your behavior” can be affected through marijuana use at a young age, Gruber said.

As recreational pot sales surge in Washington, Gruber says the perception of the risk is at an all-time low.

“All this dialogue is wonderful but it may add to how can it be bad if we are all talking about it,” Gruber said.

She hopes science will help steer kids in the right direction. Middle schoolers at her forum Thursday night agreed.

“I think it is effective for me to come to something like this because I can hear the scientific facts behind it and what it actually does,” said one middle schooler.

Gruber is not saying marijuana is good for you as an adult. She is just saying if you choose to smoke it’s very important teens wait until they are an adult so their brains have time to fully develop.