The legalization of marijuana across the world has led to researchers studying more about its benefits and negative effects. Scientists have also started to compare different drugs to know more about their impact on the brain.
A new research has put the use of marijuana and consumption of alcohol side by side to note how both can influence the functioning and structure of the brain with the conclusion that the former is far more damaging.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder look at the present imaging data on the matter and observed the results of marijuana or cannabis and the consumption of alcohol on the brain in a person.
The study found long-term changes in the structure of the gray matter and the white matter in the brain due to the intake of alcohol.
On the other hand, the lead researcher Rachel Thayer from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and colleagues found no such long-term changes with the use of marijuana in a person. The results of the study were published in the journal Addiction.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 22.2 million people in the United States have used marijuana in their lives. This makes marijuana the most widely used illicit drugs in the US.
The drug has also been becoming legalized for its recreational and medical uses across the country. As a consequence, more and more scientists are interested in knowing more about marijuana’s potential advantages as well as the side effects.
For example, a study conducted by researchers at Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal and published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry linked the use of marijuana to a higher risk of psychosis in teenagers.
In addition, another study conducted by scientists from School of Public Health at Georgia State University at Atlanta and published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reported that marijuana is worse than smoking cigarettes when it comes to cardiovascular health.
On the contrast, researchers discovered many benefits linked to the use of marijuana such as prevention of a migraine because of the cannabinoids in the drug. It was also linked to a better libido by researchers.
In the latest research, researchers focused on the long-term changes caused by marijuana on the brain. According to Kent Hutchison, the co-author of the study, there is no consistency in the previous studies in explaining any changes in the brain.
One study suggests something else while the other will say something almost opposite. To correct this inconsistency, the researchers analyzed the present imaging data on marijuana and compared it with effects of another drug which is alcohol.
Gray matter of the brain is the tissue that contains nerve cell bodies and is located on the surface of the brain.
White matter contains myelinated cell bodies that are actually branches of the nerve cells and transmit electrical impulses to other tissues and cells in the body. White matter is located deeper inside the brain.
Any negative effect on both gray and white matters and reduction in their size can lead to great damage in the functioning of the brain.
The study looked at brain images of around 853 adults between the ages of 18-55 years and 439 adolescents between the ages of 14-18. The alcohol consumption and marijuana use varied from person to person.
The research concluded that the consumption of alcohol especially in the adults who had been drinking for a long time led to changes in the integrity of white matter as well as shrinkage of the volume of gray matter.
The use of marijuana, surprisingly, had no effects on both the integrity and volume of both the white and gray matter of the brain. The researchers, therefore, concluded that alcohol is far more damaging compared to marijuana when it comes to the brain in the long run.
For the benefits of the drug, the team agrees that there is more research required and this study certainly does not encourage the use of marijuana.