Marijuana Use is Better for Your Brain than Alcohol, New Study Finds

NEW YORK | Friday, December 21st, 2012 11:36pm EDT

Teen marijuana use doesn’t affect brain performance, a study suggests.

Teens who use alcohol is much more likely to have reduced brain tissue — while marijuana use has lesser effect. Photo: TMartin_33/Flickr

According to a recent survey, while it’s still not discovered how marijuana use in your teens impacts your brain performance, or the long-term impacts of using the drug, it doesn’t physically injure the brain tissue, while alcohol does.

Drinking alcohol during the adolescence affects the growth and development of the brain’s white matter, which is continually restructured until the mid-20s. In the result it may cause various problems including decision-making behavior.

“It becomes a cycle. If teens decrease their tissue health and cognitive ability to inhibit themselves, they might become more likely to engage in risky behavior like excessive substance use,” study researcher Joanna Jacobus, of UC San Diego told reporters.

To conduct the study, researchers scanned the brains of 92 teenagers, ages 16 to 20, before and after an 18-month period. (Meanwhile, all those teenagers can take advantage of CA residential inpatient recovery programs.)

During that year and a half, half of the teens – who had drunk alcohol before as well as using marijuana – haven’t give up their additions. Meanwhile, the other participants of the study abstained or kept consumption minimal, as they had throughout adolescence.

Later researchers compared two variants of brain scans of the teens consuming five or more drinks at least twice a week and found out reduced white matter brain tissue health.

This may mean declines in memory, attention, and decision-making into later adolescence and adulthood, explained study co-author Susan Tapert, neuroscientist at University of California, San Diego.

However, the level of marijuana use – up to nine times a week during the 18 months – seemed not to be linked to a change in brain tissue health. The researchers did not test performance; they only looked at brain scans, writes The Huffington Post.

The damage occurs as white matter brain tissue develops throughout adolescence and into a person’s 20s, Joanna Jacobus, postdoctoral fellow at the UC San Diego, and co-author of the study, explained.

“One reason is that marijuana can really vary. Different strains contain different levels of THC and other marijuana components. For example, some studies have suggested one component, cannabidiol, may actually have neuroprotective effects,” Tapert supposed.

However, Duncan Clark, a medical doctor who was not involved in the study and who specializes in teen substance abuse, suggested that the study is valuable because “similar research has only conducted a one-time test instead of tests before and after a period of substance use”.

Clark went on, adding that because white matter brain tissue development may be the basis for greater self-control, doctors hope to use brain scans like they did in the study to predict young individuals’ likelihood of substance abuse.

As the researchers examined the subjects for 18 months, they managed at least partially to monitor preexisting differences in the two groups.

But Jacobus cited other eliminating factors – such as genetics, home environment, and even minimal use of other drugs – is very difficult.

The study was conducted by researchers at UC San Diego and is to be published in the April issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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