Despite Jeff Sessions’ plans to bring back DARE, you can forget all that drug war propaganda exaggerating the effects of substances like cannabis. No, weed won’t fry your brain, or necessarily turn you into a drug addict. In fact, it won’t have any structural effect on you brain, period. New research has found that there’s no link between cannabis use and hippocampal atrophy — the degeneration of brain cells in the hippocampus, causing memory loss. In fact, contradictory to Drug War messaging, America’s favorite legal drug — alcohol — is actually behind structural changes in the brain.
Researchers from the University of Colorado and the Oregon Health & Science Center recently published a study, proving that alcohol is more responsible than cannabis for changing the structure of the brain.
“Alcohol use severity is associated with widespread lower gray matter volume and white matter integrity in adults, and with lower gray matter volume in adolescents,” the study authors wrote. “No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.”
The researchers evaluated neuroimaging data from adults between the ages of 18 and 55, as well as adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18. They found a an association between alcohol and negative changes to brain structure, but failed to identify the same association for cannabis.
According to the researchers, prior studies have also suggested that “regionally specific differences between cannabis users and non-users are often inconsistent across studies and that some of the observed associations may actually be related to comorbid alcohol use.”
For instance, a 2015 brain imaging study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found no positive association between cannabis and adverse changes in the brain. However, it did find that alcohol “has been unequivocally associated with deleterious effects on brain morphology and cognition in both adults and adolescents.”
Another study published in the British Medical Journal this year found that “alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, is associated with adverse brain outcomes including hippocampal atrophy.”
That said, this data isn’t meant to discourage people from drinking alcohol, or only smoking weed — though a fair amount of people have in fact made that substitution — but rather, to inform people about the comparative neurological risks associated with both.