Alcohol is More Damaging to Brain Health than Marijuana

With marijuana legalization rising, a lot of researchers are investigating the drug’s potential harms and benefits. However, recent research suggests that when it comes to brain health, alcohol is more damaging than marijuana.

A review of an existing imaging data, known to show the effects of alcohol and marijuana on the brain, was conducted by Scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The results linked alcohol consumption with continuing changes to the structure of white matter and grey matter in the brain, while the use of marijuana gives the impression that there are no significant long-term effects on brain structure at all.

Research leader Rachel Thayer, of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues have recently reported their results in the journal Addiction.

It is projected that approximately 22.2 million citizens in the United States have consumed marijuana in the past month. This makes it “the most frequently and commonly used illicit drug” in the country.

Yet, across the U.S it is becoming increasingly popular to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. As a result of this shifting legislation, researchers have been trying to discover more about how marijuana may profit health, in addition to the damage that it could cause.

Last year, for instance, Medical News Today reported on a study connecting marijuana use to a more significant risk of psychosis in teenagers, while a different study argued that the drug is more inferior than cigarettes for individual cardiovascular health.

On the other side, researchers have discovered that cannabinoids — which are the active compounds in marijuana — could assist in preventing migraines, and another recent study linked marijuana use to an improved sex drive.

Marijuana vs alcohol: Which is worse?

Thayer and colleagues went further to study more about how marijuana use affects the brain.  However, there is no consistency across all of these studies as they are carried out by many scientists in terms of the actual brain.  Therefore, to close the space on this inconsistency, the researchers conducted a new analysis of existing brain imaging data. They looked at how the use of marijuana affects white matter and grey matter in the brain, along with how its effects compare with another “drug” that we have become so habituated to – alcohol.

Grey matter is the tissue on the brain’s surface that mainly consists of nerve cell bodies while the White-matter is the deeper brain tissue which contains myelinated nerve fibers, which are branches projecting from nerve cells that spread electrical impulses to other cells and tissues.

The Scientist observed that any reduction in the size of white or grey matter, or a loss in their integrity, can bring about impairments in brain functioning.

“With alcohol, we’ve acknowledged it’s bad for the brain for decades,” notes Hutchison. “Although for cannabis, we know so little.”

Marijuana use had no impact

Their study included the brain images of about 853 adults with age between 18 and 55 years along with 439 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. The participants varied in their use of alcohol and marijuana.

The researchers realized that alcohol use — mostly in adults who had been drinking for many years — was related to a reduction in grey matter volume, plus a reduction in the integrity of white matter.

Marijuana use, however, shows to have no impact or shock on the structure of grey or white matter in either teenagers or adults.

Based on these results, the researchers accept as accurate that drinking alcohol is likely to be much more damaging or harmful to brain health than using marijuana.

With marijuana legalization rising, a lot of researchers are investigating the drug’s potential harms and benefits. However, recent research suggests that when it comes to brain health, alcohol is more damaging than marijuana.

A review of an existing imaging data, known to show the effects of alcohol and marijuana on the brain, was conducted by Scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The results linked alcohol consumption with continuing changes to the structure of white matter and grey matter in the brain, while the use of marijuana gives the impression that there are no significant long-term effects on brain structure at all.

Research leader Rachel Thayer, of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues have recently reported their results in the journal Addiction.

It is projected that approximately 22.2 million citizens in the United States have consumed marijuana in the past month. This makes it “the most frequently and commonly used illicit drug” in the country.

Yet, across the U.S it is becoming increasingly popular to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes. As a result of this shifting legislation, researchers have been trying to discover more about how marijuana may profit health, in addition to the damage that it could cause.

Last year, for instance, Medical News Today reported on a study connecting marijuana use to a more significant risk of psychosis in teenagers, while a different study argued that the drug is more inferior than cigarettes for individual cardiovascular health.

On the other side, researchers have discovered that cannabinoids — which are the active compounds in marijuana — could assist in preventing migraines, and another recent study linked marijuana use to an improved sex drive.

 

Marijuana vs alcohol: Which is worse?

Thayer and colleagues went further to study more about how marijuana use affects the brain.  However, there is no consistency across all of these studies as they are carried out by many scientists in terms of the actual brain.  Therefore, to close the space on this inconsistency, the researchers conducted a new analysis of existing brain imaging data. They looked at how the use of marijuana affects white matter and grey matter in the brain, along with how its effects compare with another “drug” that we have become so habituated to – alcohol.

Grey matter is the tissue on the brain’s surface that mainly consists of nerve cell bodies while the White-matter is the deeper brain tissue which contains myelinated nerve fibers, which are branches projecting from nerve cells that spread electrical impulses to other cells and tissues.

The Scientist observed that any reduction in the size of white or grey matter, or a loss in their integrity, can bring about impairments in brain functioning.

“With alcohol, we’ve acknowledged it’s bad for the brain for decades,” notes Hutchison. “Although for cannabis, we know so little.”

 

Marijuana use had no impact

Their study included the brain images of about 853 adults with age between 18 and 55 years along with 439 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18. The participants varied in their use of alcohol and marijuana.

The researchers realized that alcohol use — mostly in adults who had been drinking for many years — was related to a reduction in grey matter volume, plus a reduction in the integrity of white matter.

Marijuana use, however, shows to have no impact or shock on the structure of grey or white matter in either teenagers or adults.

Based on these results, the researchers accept as accurate that drinking alcohol is likely to be much more damaging or harmful to brain health than using marijuana.

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