A new study suggests that alcohol brings more damage to the brain than cannabis does.
According to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, cannabis, unlike alcohol, does not affect the integrity and the size of the brain’s grey or white matter. And this holds true even after years of cannabis exposure.
It is the grey matter that enables our brain to perform its function as it contains cell bodies and synapses. White matter, on the other hand, is made of axons, which connect grey matter to each other, and controls the communication that takes place between nerve clusters.
The researchers reviewed imaging data related to the effects of cannabis and alcohol on human brain. They found that alcohol consumption can be linked to long-term changes to the gray and white matter structures. Cannabis consumption, on the other hand, seemed to have no long-term effects on brain structure.
The study was published in Addiction journal. It involves more than 850 people 18 to 35 years old, as well as teenagers 14 to 18 years old. The researchers monitored the subjects’ cannabis and alcohol consumption over a 30-day period, after which they had MRI scans of their brains taken.
One of the authors of the study, Professor Kent Hutchison, said that while cannabis may have its own share of some negative effects, these are nowhere near the negative effects of booze. He also pointed out that while there are studies claiming that cannabis can affect the brain differently, there is not much evidence to back up this claim.
“Considering how much is taking place in the real world with regard to the cannabis legalization movement, there is still a lot of work left for scientists to do.” – Professor Kent Hutchison.
The study’s lead author, Rachel Thayer of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, admitted that when it comes to cannabis consumption and its impacts to the brain, there is still so much that needs to be looked into.
Despite their findings, the researchers also stated that there are many holes in terms of cannabis safety.
Hutchison even said that when one looks at the body of research on cannabis more closely, one would surely see a lot of inaccuracies.
He said that when you look at the earlier studies, you will see that one study reports that cannabis use can be linked to a reduced volume of the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain that’s associated with emotions and memory. Then the next study comes and claims that cannabis use is linked to changes in the cerebellum.
“The point,” he stressed out, “is that there isn’t any consistency across all the studies when it comes to actual brain structures.”
The researchers also added that there is still a long way to go before weed will be broadly legalized. There are still many who are concerned about the effects of the drug on people of different ages, about how the drug manages pain, and about the causes of cannabis addiction.
Considering how much is taking place in the real world with regard to the cannabis legalization movement, there is still a lot of work left for scientists to do, Professor Hutchison added.
Cannabis is indeed increasingly getting legalized across the U.S. for both medical and recreational purposes. And as a result of this evolving legislation landscape, scientists have been trying to discover more about how cannabis can benefit one’s health, as well as what sorts of damage it could cause to the body.
Moreover, according to estimates, around 22.2 million Americans have used cannabis in the previous month, making it the country’s most commonly used illicit substance. With the widespread use of cannabis, it is not surprising if researchers show a growing interest on cannabis in general.