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article imageNew study finds casual pot use alters the brain

By Jeannie Stokowski-Bisanti     Apr 16, 2014 in Health
Young adults who occasionally use pot show abnormalities in two key areas of their brain related to emotion, motivation, and decision making, new research reveals.
A new study regarding casual marijuana use was published on Tuesday in The Journal of Neuroscience and was done in collaboration with researchers at Harvard University using 40 college students in the Boston area.
Scientists looked at the brains of 20 relatively light cannabis users and 20 people who did not use it at all.
Very little research has been done on the potential benefits and downsides of casual pot smoking (fewer than four times a week on average).
The study found volume, shape, and density changes in two brain areas — the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. It also found that the more pot the students smoked, the more their brains differed from the non-users.
The research was financed by grants from the National Institutes of Health as well as the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Northwestern Medicine's Warren Wright Adolescent Center. A biologist and neuropharmacologist at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., Gregory Gerdeman, told USA Today that he has no reason to doubt the new study's findings but worries about cannabis research being funded by federal agencies, like the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is charged with limiting drug use.
Gerdeman said, "If you're getting money from the drug czar's office, that money's not going to continue if you don't end up publishing something that at least supports the general story of the danger of drug abuse." He also said, "if it were my child, even with this study, I'm more comfortable with young people having a casual marijuana habit than drinking regularly."
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