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While we can’t say for sure how marijuana use in your teens impacts your brain performance, or the long-term impacts of using the drug, new research suggests that it doesn’t physically injure the brain tissue. On the other hand, alcohol use does.Drinking alcohol during the teen years disturbs the growth and development of the brain’s white matter, which is continually restructured until the mid-20s. This can impact many of the brain’s functions, including decision-making behaviour.
“It becomes a cycle. If teens decrease their tissue health and cognitive ability to inhibit themselves, they might become more likely to engage in risky behaviour like excessive substance use,” study researcher Joanna Jacobus, of UC San Diego, told The Huffington Post. They don’t know if these changes are permanent.
The study will be published in the April 2013 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
The research is detailed by The Huffington Post:
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 five or more drinks at least twice a week showed reduced white matter brain tissue, 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.
While this is good news, there are also studies that have linked weed smoking, especially if you have a specific genetic marker, to psychosis and schizophrenia. There’s also a link between heart health and the teenage use of now-illegal synthetic pot products. Previous research has shown that teens who use marijuana are at risk for a long-term drop in their IQ.