Does weed cause brain damage? Does exposure to it at a young age impact brain development in the long term?
Those are two very prominent questions in the marijuana research world that are only starting to be investigated on a legitimate scale. One recent study has gotten the attention of some Reddit users, which created more than 500 comments so far, and it has to do with a study that measured the impact of marijuana use on brain development in adolescents.
The headline is interesting, in that the article produced by The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. about the study says that use of high-potency cannabis (one with higher concentration of THC) “may” contribute to some form of brain damage, including schizophrenia, when it is used by teenagers.
The sample size in the study was not considered very high as a medical study, but it was considered relatively strong for marijuana studies (about 100 people). The relatively small size for a “scientific” study makes the results highly controversial, but maybe it’s what has not been exactly found that might make for controversy.
The study attempted to find a link between marijuana users and their brain development, especially as they were introduced to the drug at certain ages. It is known that brain development occurs most actively between about 12 and 25, and that seems to be a primary age range for people to be introduced or to start using marijuana. In this case, ‘brain damage from weed’ might be
Is No Finding a Finding?
What seemed to strike the researchers was to survey the sample according to age when they first used marijuana (using age 15 as a baseline – did they start using before or after that age?), the length of time in which they have been using, the frequency of use, and the general potency of the drug that they use (a more mild form like what may be found in the U.S., or a more potent form that can be found in some parts of Europe), based on the concentration of THC.
The study didn’t not seem to give a rationale for why its focus was on age 15 as the benchmark age to sample for first use, but it seemed the research was trying to find if use of marijuana during these highly sensitive brain-development years have any contribution to long-term brain trouble.
What was found, interestingly, was that age of first use was apparently not a factor in the effects of marijuana use on brain development or damage. The study did seem to find some link between high-potency weed use and brain damage or development, but the exact link could not be determined in terms of causality, perhaps because the sample size isn’t big enough.
Marijuana research is a tricky subject since it is not legally accepted everywhere, so often people may lie about their use or frequency, while others will merely understate their use in relation to the use of words like “occasionally” or “regularly” that the researchers might use for the purposes of their study.
When the finding of a study is no finding, it actually found that there is more research to be done, and here is hoping that a study like this will lead to a more comprehensive investigation and perhaps some definitive answers.
We need to know if THC contributes to altered brain development, and whether age can truly have an impact, or whether it has to do with frequency or length of use. Any answers in these areas would help us all shed some light on this very important issue, since it seems that marijuana use is more prevalent and at young ages just as much as with more mature, developed brains. Let’s be clear we aren’t talking about ‘crack babies’ or ‘fetal alcohol syndrome, but whether weed damages the brain in the long term remains to be seen.