Marijuana Does Not Damage Brain Tissue

Marijuana, brain damage, teens
By on February 12, 2014

Published in full on the Huffington Post.

Teen Marijuana Use May Show No Effect On Brain Tissue, Unlike Alcohol, Study Finds

A teen who consumes alcohol is likely to have reduced brain tissue health, but a teen who uses marijuana is not, according to a new study.

Researchers scanned the brains of 92 adolescents, ages 16 to 20, before and after an 18-month period. During that year and a half, half of the teens—who already had extensive alcohol and marijuana-use histories—continued to use marijuana and alcohol in varying amounts. The other half abstained or kept consumption minimal, as they had throughout adolescence.

The before-and-after brain scans of the teens consuming typically five or more drinks at least twice a week showed reduced white matter brain tissue health, study co-author Susan Tapert, neuroscientist at University of California, San Diego, told HuffPost. This may mean declines in memory, attention, and decision-making into later adolescence and adulthood, she said.

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

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