Cannabis damages teenage brains more than alcohol

Alicia Farmer
October 6, 2018

The research team recruited almost 4,000 teenagers from over thirty different Canadian schools to track them for a period of four years.

The study showed that the use of alcohol and cannabis during adolescence was associated with generally poorer performance in all cognitive areas.

Long-term damage to their developing brain is caused by cannabis adolescents, shows a new Canadian scientific study, according to which the effects on mental capacities, memory and behavior are worse than those of alcohol.

The teenagers, from 31 different Canadian schools, gave details of their drug and drinking habits once a year.

Alcohol and cannabis use has been associated with changes in the teens' learning abilities, their memory, attention span, and decision-making abilities.

Use of cannabis was much less common than use of alcohol, with 28 per cent admitting to trying to the drug.

"Very few studies are created to look at this question from a developmental perspective", adds senior study investigator Patricia Conrod, Ph.D., professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Montreal.

At the same time, their brain skills were assessed using computer-tests of their cognitive abilities.

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The more the teens used marijuana, the worse these types of problems.

This compared with 75% of the teenagers who said they drank alcohol at least occasionally.

But, on the contrary, the research uncovered greater increases in errors in cognitive tests on the teenagers using weed - while they were ingesting ganja and after they had stopped.

The researchers, from the University of Montreal, urged teenagers to delay their use of cannabis for as long as they felt able.

These effects were seen in working memory, reasoning and their ability to control their behaviour.

One important thing which continued to be highlighted was that the cannabis use did not have to necessarily be frequent; the results were also the same in infrequent use of the drug.

It can be addictive and its regular use has been linked to an increased risk of developing psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia, particularly in adolescents.

Giving up cannabis can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as sleeping problems and mood swings, experts say.

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