With the increase in some sectors of society, both in Spain and in Europe and the rest of Western countries, in the demand for a review of the legal status of marijuana, some researchers are redoubling their efforts to learn more about the potential benefits and contraindications of the use of this drug and its comparison with others such as alcohol.
How do drugs affect the brain?
A recent study by the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, led by Rachel Thayer, has reviewed the brain images of 853 adults between 18 and 55 years old and 439 adolescents between
14 and 18, all of them with different patterns of consumption of alcohol and marijuana.
To date, other studies have suggested that marijuana use may lead to an increased risk of psychosis among young people, or that its use was worse than tobacco use in terms of cardiovascular health. There is also other research in the opposite direction, in which it has been found that the active components of marijuana (cannabinoids) can help, for example, to prevent migraines or improve sexual activity.
At the brain level, there were also different studies, sometimes inconsistent, that indicated that the use of marijuana could reduce the volume of the hippocampus or cause changes in the cerebellum.
In this study conducted by the University of Colorado, researchers have focused on analyzing the effect of alcohol and marijuana on the gray and white matter of the brain. The first constitutes the tissues of the surface of the brain, while the second is the deeper tissue of the brain that contains the nerve fibers. In general, a reduction in the size of either of the two or a loss of its integrity leads to different types of brain disabilities.
Alcohol and marijuana: effects on the brain
With alcohol there have been serious studies for many years showing its negative effects on the brain. In this particular study, researchers have found that alcohol use, especially in adults who have consumed it for many years, is associated with a reduction in gray matter volume, as well as a loss of white matter integrity in the brain.
In contrast, the use of marijuana seems to have no impact on the volume or structure of gray or white matter, both in adolescents and adults.
Based on these results, the team of researchers believe that drinking alcohol is much worse for our brain than using marijuana.
However, they also highlight that there is still a lot of work to do regarding the effects of marijuana use in other areas, both negative and potentially positive, before drawing definitive conclusions.
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