A new study suggests cannabis use associated with brain aging

Published Apr 26, 2019 12:54 p.m. ET

If you participate in marijuana use than you might want to take a moment to reflect on the results of what is the largest ever of its kind brain imaging study which evaluated over 62 000 brain scans from 30 000 participants whose ages ranged from 9 months to 105 years old. The goal of this particular study was to measure the effects of several different types of disorders including schizophrenia, cannabis abuse, bipolar disorder, and alcohol abuse might have on a person’s natural process of aging. The information seemed to show a dramatic difference between each one, but all of them resulted in some type of accelerated aging.

Who conducted this weed research?

Scientists and specialists from Amen Clinics, John Hopkins University, Google, Los Angeles, University of California, and San Francisco all participated in the evaluation of 62454 single photon emission computed tomography brain scans. A small fraction of which were also responsible for accurately measuring the cerebral blood flow within the participant’s brains.

What is accelerated brain aging?

Every human’s brain is filled with plenty of action as the sparks between neurons command the body to perform the necessary tasks required on a daily basis. A healthy person’s brain will age at a pace that is consistent and in line with current expectations in the medical industry, but someone who experiences an accelerated brain aging is much more likely to fall victim to the symptoms of a misfiring brain pattern which can affect things like cognitive function, memory, and a possible early diagnosis of another disorder like schizophrenia.

The statistics

Weed researchers evaluated information along with brain scans focusing on 128 separate sections of the brain to measure the effects of substance abuse when compared to other mental health conditions. Below are the totals released for each group, and the results might shock you.

Bipolar Disorder- BD causes an accelerated brain aging that is equal to 1.6 years of life.

Schizophrenia- Schizophrenia stimulates an accelerated brain aging that is equal to 4 years of life.

(ADHD) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder- ADHD encourages an accelerated brain aging that is equal to 1.4 years of life.

Alcohol abuse- The abuse of alcohol will stimulate an accelerated brain aging that is equal to 0.6 years of life.

Cannabis abuse- The abuse of marijuana use stimulates an accelerated brain aging that is equal to 2.8 years of life.

Does this mean that you should avoid marijuana use?

These findings were originally meant to track how these different situations might affect a person’s brain health with the hope of finding a way to treat memory affecting disorders that are so often found in elderly patients. The intention of the statistics release is not to convince everyone that weed research or marijuana use is in any way bad when done in moderation. The issue is only found with any consistency in cannabis consumers who use far more product than the average individual who is using it to unwind.

In conclusion

Though 2.8 years might not sound like a lot, and in the grand scheme of things, it isn't. There is a lot to be learned with this scale of weed research taking place. Cannabis has, for the most part, been referenced up until this point as entirely safe to consume, and free of harmful side effects, which simply isn’t entirely true. Though marijuana use will, in general, come, with fewer side effects than most traditionally prescribed medications, it still comes at a cost of its own which equates to just under three years off your brain’s life. The main lesson to take from this is to consume any substance in moderation and with safety in mind for the best long-term results, as over-consumption can have potentially adverse effects that are now solidified on paper for the world to see. What’s most important is that we recognize the possible risks for future generations to learn from, avoiding some of the mistakes so many made prior to a wealth of knowledge from years of weed research being so readily accessible.

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