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Study finds marijuana causes less brain damage than alcohol

A common stereotype depicts marijuana users as not very clear-headed, and perhaps lacking some brain cells. But a recent study, published in the journal, Addiction, by US researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, concluded that the use of marijuana was less damaging to the human brain than alcohol. The research seems to show that marijuana causes no appreciable change in the structure of the human brain.

The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between marijuana and alcohol use and the amount of grey and white matter in the human brain. Both types of matter play a major role in healthy, well-functioning brains.

The study subjects included 853 people between the ages of 18 and 55 and 439 teenagers under 18. They all had histories of a wide range of marijuana and alcohol use.

The study found that both adults and teenagers who drank alcohol experienced a decrease in the size of grey matter, with adults experiencing a more pronounced reduction than teenagers. Adults who drank alcohol also experienced a decrease in white matter, but teenagers did not. Reductions in grey and white matter were more pronounced in those who had been drinking alcohol for many years.

Researchers found no correlation between brain size and smoking marijuana for study participants who had smoked the drug during the previous 30 days. The study co-author, Kent Hutchison, said, “While marijuana may also have some negative consequences, it definitely is nowhere near the negative consequences of alcohol.”

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