Story by Morgan Gstalter
A new study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to link casual marijuana use to abnormalities in the brains of adolescents and young adults.
Marijuana, the most-used illegal drug in the United States, is the most widely used drugs on college campuses. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates roughly 15.2 million people used marijuana in 2008, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that has increased to 19 million during 2012. The study suggests that may be due in part to “society’s changing beliefs about cannabis use and its legal status.”
What researchers in Boston wanted to find out was what effect this increase of usage would have on young Americans and on the human brain. Researchers used different neuroimaging technology to examine the brains of 40 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 at Boston area colleges. Half smoked marijuana at least once a week, and the other half did not smoke marijuana at all.
“I think the findings that there are observable differences in brain structure with marijuana even in these young adult recreational users indicate that there are significant effects of marijuana on the brain,” said Dr. Jodi Gilman, lead author and a researcher in the Massachusetts General Center for Addiction Medicine in a CNN article. “Those differences were exposuredependent, meaning those who used more marijuana had greater abnormalities.”
The results of the study suggested marijuana use prior to the age of 16 was a major contributing factor in brain abnormalities. Regular use of marijuana prior to age 16 is associated with greater difficulty of tasks requiring judgment, planning and inhibitory function.
According to the study, “Preliminary research has shown that early onset smokers are slower at tasks, have lower IQs later in life and even have a higher risk of stroke.”
“I think people are well aware of the risks of using marijuana. Anything you put in your body that’s foreign will have it’s benefits or harms, but it’s up to the user what they want to use. There will always be studies about it but in the end, alcohol has more serious health effects and the prohibition on alcohol didn’t work,” said Drake student Daniel Hong.
News of this study comes out right before the Iowa House debated cannibis oil legislation. The legislation, approved 135 by a House committee Tuesday, gives legal protection for people who suffer from seizures, or their guardians, to use marijuana based cannabidiol treatments they could purchase in other states, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.