Friday, October 6, 2017

New Study Confirms Alcohol Destroys The Brain, Not Cannabis

This Just In hero2 New Study Confirms Alcohol Destroys The Brain, Not Cannabis

Right now, our best conjecture is that alcohol abuse is the actual culprit for developing brains.  All things been equal, it certainly has the best claim and direct medical evidence.

It appears past work has failed to control properly for alcohol and it is well known that both are used at the same time likely to avoid the deleterious effects of too much alcohol.  Except the alcohol bites the young.

The real take home is that alcohol abstinence is fully supported by the science until maturity while abstinence from all forms of impairment needs to be properly learned and even conditioned. At least marijuana is likely harmless if used prudently....

New Study Confirms Alcohol Destroys The Brain, Not Cannabis

Tiffany King

14 July, 2017

Who remembers this anti-drug PSA in the 80s and 90s where they smug guy whips out a raw egg, cracks it and tosses it into a frying pan saying, “This is your brain… this is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” It’s too bad he forgot to add alcohol into the mix, because the authors of a new study published in the journal Addiction, have linked chronic alcohol consumption with lower gray matter volume in the brain.

Gray matter matters

Gray matter is composed of neuronal cell bodies and is the key information processor within the brain. In fact, scientists believe that the more gray matter someone has, the more intelligent they are.

There are more than 20 regions of the brain where the density of gray matter is directly linked to IQ since these areas are associated with memory, language, and the ability to focus.

Researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder and Oregon Health and Science University aimed to,

Test the strength of association between (1) alcohol use and GM [grey matter] volume; (2) alcohol use and white matter (WM) integrity; (3) cannabis use and GM volume; and (4) cannabis use and WM integrity among adults and adolescents.

Neuroimaging data taken from groups of adolescents and adults showed that alcohol use resulted in adverse changes in brain structure; changes that were not at all found in cannabis use.
Alcohol use and subsequent brain damage

These findings are unsurprising given that alcohol’s damaging effects on the brain have been widely researched for decades. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have reviewed several common disorders that are associated with alcohol-related brain damage, as well as the severe impacts of alcohol withdrawal.

Their study conducted in 2004 found that “male and female alcoholics both showed significantly greater brain shrinkage than those not suffering from alcoholism.” They also note that cognitive issues, learning, and memory are all severely impacted by moderate to heavy drinking.

Weed and the teen brain

As far as cannabis is concerned, the data revealed that “No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.” The discovery is key, given that there has been much speculation about the effects of cannabis on the developing teenage brain especially.

Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, lead author of a study which measured the effects of pot on cognition and high school drop-out rates found a link between higher drop-out rates and lowered academic success when using cannabis.

When it came down to the direct impacts on the brain, impairment was found in the areas of IQ and specific cognitive abilities related to the brain’s frontal lobe.

While cognitive decline in teens should be a cause for concern, any teen who has access to and heavily uses any substance is most likely going to perform poorly in school. She admitted that brain impairment did not seem to be ‘global or widespread,’ her suggestion; don’t smoke pot before the age of 17.

We found that adolescents who started using cannabis at 17 or older performed equally well as adolescents who did not use cannabis.

Unless used medically, cannabis is for grown-ups only


For adults, however, a peer-reviewed study conducted in 2016 concluded that there were in fact, changes in gray matter for heavy cannabis users but the changes were only linked to those who have been heavy smokers since before early adulthood.

Otherwise, they found a “lack of significant differences in GM [gray matter] volumes between young adult heavy cannabis users and health controls over time.”

This suggests that heavy cannabis use does not reduce gray matter volume, so long as heavy smoking began in adulthood.


New Study Finds Daily Marijuana Use Is Not Associated With Brain Abnormalities

Several recent studies have suggested that smoking marijuana is associated with physical changes in certain regions of the brain, both in terms of shape and volume, although they could not establish cause and effect. Now, new research which set out to replicate these investigations using a more robust experimental design has produced conflicting results. According to the study, daily marijuana use, in both adults and adolescents, is not associated with any significant differences in either the shape or volume of the regions investigated. The work has been published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Given the current changing trends towards the acceptance and use of marijuana, it’s important to thoroughly investigate the possible risks associated with the drug so that decisions regarding legalization and classification can be based on scientific evidence. Numerous studies have therefore looked into the potential effects of marijuana use, and several have concluded that smoking marijuana is associated with changes in the brain. One investigation even concluded that frequent marijuana use was associated with cognitive decline and a decrease in IQ. However, results have not been consistent throughout different studies. 

Some investigations, for example, found that marijuana use is linked to a decrease in the size of certain areas of the brain, whereas others concluded that marijuana is associated with an increase in volume of the same areas. While the studies were interesting, it’s important to note that, because of the way they were designed, it was not possible to establish cause and effect. Furthermore, the studies may not have adequately controlled for alcohol use, which is a particularly important issue given that it is well established that alcohol abuse can have a detrimental effect on brain structure as well as volume and mental ability.

In order to address this issue and hopefully provide some clarity, scientists designed a well-controlled study that set out to investigate the potential effects of daily marijuana use on both adults and adolescents. In particular, they wanted to compare the brains of users and non-users by examining the morphology of numerous different regions which were the focus of previous studies: the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus and cerebellum.

For the study, 29 adult daily marijuana users were enrolled, alongside 29 adult non-users. A group of 50 adolescent daily users were also recruited, once again alongside a sample of 50 adolescent non-users. Importantly, the researchers closely matched the groups on many possible confounding variables, such as depression, age, tobacco use and gender. Furthermore, they were matched on alcohol use to a much greater extent than previous studies.

After carrying out MRI scans on the participants and conducting statistical analyses, the researchers failed to find any differences in the volumes of any of the brain regions investigated. According to the researchers, this could suggest that previously observed differences might be due to inadequate control for alcohol use, given the fact that even modest alcohol abuse has been linked to changes in the brain.

Although this study was more robust in terms of matching groups, it is necessary to note that it still has some important limitations. For example, it still cannot establish causality, and did not take into account socioeconomic factors or the history of marijuana use, such as when they began using the drug.

[Via The Journal of Neuroscience]

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