Alcohol or Cannabis: Which is Worse for the Health of Your Brain?

Cannabis is a hot topic these days. In Canada, we are a few months away from the legalized consumption and possession of “personal use” amounts of Cannabis.

Marijuana comes up in conversations everywhere. It came up at church a few months ago in a men’s group that I am a part of. When visiting my retired parents at Christmas someone mentioned medical marijuana and just this morning, my kids and I had an hour conversation about substance use and the pending legalization of pot.

A recent study of over 1,000 people’s brains tested whether alcohol or cannabis does the most damage. The study found that long term alcohol use is far worse for us than cannabis use.

I informed them that by far, alcohol causes more damage than cannabis. I cited statistics on drunk driving, liver damage, and spousal violence to name a few.

A recent study of over 1,000 people’s brains tested whether alcohol or cannabis does the most damage. The study found that long term alcohol use is far worse for us than cannabis use.

  • Alcohol use is linked to decreased gray matter size and lower white matter integrity, the researchers found.
  • Cannabis, though, had no link to reductions in these critical measures of brain health.

What the study does not say is that Cannabis is good for us or that it does not cause damage. If we over eat or over use anything (even stuff like wild salmon, coffee, wheat, sugar or salt), it can (and probably will) harm us.

Also, keep in mind that the use of ANY substance by adolescents can be very harmful. Our brains do not fully develop until we are well into our 20’s. Adolescent substance use can increase POTENTIAL harms because it impacts their ability to evaluate the pros and cons, along with the potential impacts of their use. Substance use can delay, or even damage, brain maturation.

Professionally, I hope that adolescents will wait before they use substances. The earlier a person starts using, the more their use will impact their development and behavior. As a realist, I recognize that not everyone will wait. A 17 year old buddy may not be the best source of information (just sayin’…). A place to start is with a site such as Staying Safe/Drug Aware or by consulting your local mental health practitioner may be a good place to start. Not every mental health or addiction professional is balanced or well-informed of the most recent research and perspective. It is wise to practice critical thinking when getting any information.

Even if cannabis is legal in your area, it is still important to exercise caution. If something is legalized, this does not mean it is good for you. Marijuana is a drug and we can still become dependent on it.

So – whether you puff, whether you sip or whether you shake your finger at the rest of us, I hope that you will…

Keep it Real 

For more, see article by PsyBlog


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