While we strongly discourage teenagers from using cannabis recreationally, it looks like there may be no cause for worry about how the use of the drug affects young people’s brains. At least that’s what a new study is telling us.
Many people worry about cannabis consumption among teenagers causing long-term damage to their still-developing brains. This fear is not unfounded as there are a number of studies suggesting that cannabis does have adverse effects on our most important organ.
Take for instance a study done by researchers at the University of Montreal, which suggests that cannabis use among teeners has a worse impact on their memory, thinking, and behavior compared to drinking alcohol.
A new study, however, suggests that this might not entirely be the case.
The study, conducted by researchers from Arizona State University and published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, tracked cannabis use among 200 boys in Pittsburgh with issues regarding their conduct during the late 80s. The researchers compared the boys’ weed consumption rates with brain scans taken 20 and 30 years later. It was found that there was no apparent difference in their brain structure.
According to the authors of the study, even the boys who had the highest level of marijuana exposure during adolescence showed the same subcortical brain volumes and cortical brain volumes and thickness in adulthood as the boys who had nearly zero exposure to cannabis throughout their adolescent years.
The study has certain drawbacks, such as its small sample size and the fact that MRI scans may not exactly be the most effective way of assessing the effects of weed on the brain. However, it does offer an interesting perspective and some valuable information.
Madeline Maier, director of ASU’s substance use, health and behavior lab and the lead author of the study, said that the most significant part of their research is that it follows others in suggesting that the influence of cannabis on young brains is not permanent.
She pointed out that reviews of these studies have revealed that most of them have not found evidence of an association between an earlier age of cannabis use and adult brain structure — although there are a few of them that have.