Study: Youth cannabis use may not affect adult brain structure

Study: Youth cannabis use may not affect adult brain structure

The conventional wisdom on cannabis is that younger brains should stay away from it. The drug interacts with your brain in all kinds of different ways (including some that science has yet to uncover or understand), and the general understanding is that if you use cannabis as a young person (below the age of 20 or so), it might negatively affect your brain development. But a new study claims that connection might not be all it seems.

The study, performed by scientists from Arizona State University, examined scans from about 200 young men taken in the late 1980s, and then looked at the same brains with different scans 30 years later. The researchers involved found that despite some participants reporting heavy cannabis use when young, some reporting occasional use, and some reporting no use at all, there didn’t appear to be any structural difference in their brains. Structural differences, in this case, meant that “even boys with the highest level of cannabis exposure in adolescence showed subcortical brain volumes and cortical brain volumes and thickness in adulthood that were similar to boys with almost no exposure to cannabis throughout adolescence.”

So good news for all of those potential young potheads out there, but don’t go using the drug if you’re under 21 just yet. First, it’s still illegal, even in states where recreational cannabis is legal, and second, this study is just one data point in a whole field of research. And even the researchers behind this study point out that this is based on just two scans during the lives of 200 people (not exactly a representative sample), and it’s entirely possible, for example, that cannabis could affect your brain structure soon after use, like in your 20s, which can then essentially be repaired by the time you hit your 30s. Additionally, as juicy as “subcortical brain volumes” sounds, just measuring brain wrinkle thickness doesn’t necessarily mean your brain isn’t still different in some way.

We have no problem with cannabis at all, and if it’s legal, anyone who can healthily enjoy it definitely should. But if you’re under 21, the science says it’s probably not great for you, so instead, focus on your schooling, and then when you’re of age, you can party down all you want. We’re sure one word of warning on a site like this won’t necessarily prevent all youth cannabis use (the kids are all on Instagram these days), but maybe it’ll help.

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