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article imageStudy of young marijuana users' brains shows abnormalities

By Marcus Hondro     Apr 16, 2014 in Health
An American study on young people who use marijuana up to 4 times each week has found their brains show abnormalities that could indicate cognitive problems. The study was published in the Wednesday issue of the 'Journal of Neurosciences.'
The study only used 20 pot smokers, ages 18 to 25, and a like number of non-pot users; the marijuana users and non-users were matched for age, sex and for other traits. The brains of the two groups were studied and compared and those results, the study said, showed marked differences in areas of the brain that are associated with emotion and motivation (called, respectively, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens).
The more marijuana smoked, the study found, the more pronounced the differences in those areas of the brain were. The differences in the brains of the pot-smoking group include higher gray matter density and volume and abnormalities in the shape of the nucleus accumbens and amygdala.
Effects of marijuana on young persons
One of the study authors noted that none of those in the study who used marijuana were dependent on the drug or showed obvious signs of problems that could be related to pot use. But Dr. Hans Breiter said that he believes what they were viewing could be a sign of trouble to come.
“What we think we are seeing here is a very early indication of what becomes a problem later on with prolonged use,” Dr. Breiter said. He said results indicate potential focus and judgement problems. In part, the study concludes by saying:
The results of this study indicate that in young, recreational marijuana users, structural abnormalities in gray matter density, volume, and shape of the nucleus accumbens and amygdala can be observed....
These results extend prior studies showing that drugs of abuse that are known to elevate DA release are associated with structural abnormalities in the brain and related disruptions in behavior.
Mixed results in study of pot usage
The study of marijuana continues to produce mixed results and findings are often debated. Perhaps the most compelling data on marijuana usage and dangers is in the area of teens and marijuana. Multiple studies have shown that for teens and their developing brains, marijuana can lead to psychological problems and be a gateway drug.
There are studies that suggest heavy pot usage by teens can cause severe mental health issues that negatively impact the rest of their lives and even raise their risk risk of stroke.
Last year, the well-known physician, Dr. Sanja Gupta, who often appears on CNN, came out in favor of medical marijuana. However, Dr. Gupta has warnings about teenagers and marijuana.
"Young, developing brains are likely more susceptible to harm from marijuana than adult brains," Dr. Gupta wrote on his blog. "Some recent studies suggest that regular use in teenage years leads to a permanent decrease in IQ. Other research hints at a possible heightened risk of developing psychosis.
"Much in the same way I wouldn't let my own children drink alcohol, I wouldn't permit marijuana until they are adults. If they are adamant about trying marijuana, I will urge them to wait until they're in their mid-20s when their brains are fully developed."
Meanwhile, Dr. Breiter noted that more study on the brains of young people who use marijuana needs to be conducted.
More about marijuana usage, pot smokers, study on pot, study on brains of marijuana smokers
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