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Friday, December 21, 2012

Study: Teens' Brains Affected by Alcohol, Not Marijuana

Posted By on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 1:38 PM

click to enlarge Safer than sex
  • Safer than sex

A key part of the marijuana debate is the impact cannabis has on developing brains. And when reaching for a weekend tonic, teenagers have a choice -- to reduce their brain tissues' health with alcohol, or to keep their brains unharmed with marijuana, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, scanned 92 adolescent brains before and after an 18-month period. Turns out, the teens who consumed five or more drinks twice a week had "reduced white matter brain tissue" -- while the teens "who used the most marijuana did not show a change in brain tissue health," the study found.

Party on.

Half of the teens studied had "extensive alcohol and marijuana-use histories" -- kind of concerning for a study group between the ages of 16 and 20, but such is life. The other half "abstained or kept consumption minimal," a fine control group to use, unless of course they were lying to the scientists as well as their parents.

White matter is the brain material in the inner part of the human central nervous system, while the gray matter is what is on the outside. It's white matter that affects how the brain learns and functions, and it's gray matter that processes and deals with cognition.

As for why alcohol use seemed to hurt white matter and lead to changed decision-making? The researchers say they don't know -- and need to conduct more research.

The types of marijuana used may also play a role, the researchers said. It is possible that CBD-rich pot, which is cannabis high in cannabidiol (as opposed to THC), may have "neuroproctective effects," researchers said.

Which would be exactly what cannabis researchers have been saying for years. Though there was a study released earlier this year by Duke University that said high marijuana use before the age of 18 was associated with a drop in IQ.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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