Marijuana may affect a developing brain, but alcohol is much worse
It’s been known that marijuana can have a negative impact on a developing brain, although studies have shown that the results are not permanent. New research is now being offered that indicates that, between marijuana and alcohol, alcohol has a much greater, and more permanent, impact on the brain than marijuana. This makes the continued ban on marijuana, and the acceptance of alcohol, somewhat more puzzling.
During an annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience held last year in San Diego, several studies were presented that pointed out that marijuana exposure before birth and during adolescence can affect the developing brain. The studies show that it can disrupt communication pathways between different areas of the brain and could also interfere with memory or learning.
Despite the revelation, there is also some benefit on the brain as a result of marijuana consumption. Cannabinoids are being shown to improve memory in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and could also reduce some of the symptoms associated with the neurological disease.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy has permanent effects on the brain. It can lead to a range of learning, behavioral and physical issues and is known to produce microcephaly (a condition through which the brain has less volume). In adolescents, alcohol consumption can damage the hippocampus, which controls memory and learning, as well as the prefrontal lobe – the part of the brain responsible for planning, impulse control and decision-making.
The ability to separate beneficial compounds, such as cannabinoids, from the cannabis plant can potentially provide medical assistance to hundreds of thousands of individuals. The same cannot be said for alcohol.