- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Alcohol consumption is more damaging to the human brain than marijuana, according to a newly released report published by researchers at the University of Colorado.

Scientists at the school’s Boulder campus recently reviewed neuroimaging data of more than a thousand people who reported using alcohol or cannabis, and their analysis concluded that individuals who drank experienced comparably detrimental changes to the structure of their brain tissue.

“[W]hile marijuana may also have some negative consequences, it definitely is nowhere near the negative consequences of alcohol,” summarized co-author Kent Hutchison of the university’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, MedicalNewsToday reported Monday.

While marijuana’s effects have been studied to varying degrees in earlier reports, the authors of the latest study argued that previous conclusions failed to paint a coherent picture of the plant’s impact on the brain.

“When you look at these studies going back years … you see that one study will report that marijuana use is related to a reduction in the volume of the hippocampus,” Mr. Hutchison said. “The next study then comes around, and they say that marijuana use is related to changes in the cerebellum.

“The point is that there’s no consistency across all of these studies in terms of the actual brain structures,” he said.

In their latest study, researchers examined brain images of 853 adults and 439 teenagers who reported varying histories with either substance for long-term changes to the structure of their white matter and gray matter, two types of brain tissue integral to the central nervous system.

“Alcohol use severity is associated with widespread lower gray matter volume and white matter integrity in adults, and with lower gray matter volume in adolescents,” the researchers concluded. “No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.”

The study was led by Rachel Thayer, also of the university’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and recently published in the journal Addiction.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but a growing number of states have legalized the plant for medical or recreational purposes.

Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012, and in 2014 it opened the nation’s inaugural retail marijuana dispensaries.

Legal pot shops in Colorado ultimately sold a record $1.51 billion worth of medical and recreational cannabis during 2017, according to recently released tax data.

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