Mary Jane, aka, weed is a vastly popular drug that is used nationwide on college campuses. The increase in the use of cannabis is related to the decrease in the stigma once associated with weed and also the drug’s rising legal status. It is commonly believed by young adults that that occasional recreational use of cannabis has no long-term physical effect on the brain. A recent study, however, published by The Journal of Neuroscience is now stating otherwise.
There were a total of 40 people who participated in this study. Half of these participants were young adults (ages 18 to 25 years old) that identified as recreational users. The other set of participants were young adults who took the who used marijuana less than five times during their lifetime. These participants were the control of the experiment. All of the participants within the study were matched in age, sex, handedness, race, and years of education. The study required for the patients to go through rigorous screening and scanning during a one day visit to ensure that none of them were under the influence. The laboratory conducting this study tested for intoxication by looking to see if the participants had four acute signs of intoxication: increased resting heart rate, red eyes, slowed speech response, and giddiness.
Focusing on the external shape of the nucleus accumbens and amygdala, the study conducted three independent analyses on grey matter density, volume, and shape (surface). The left and right nucleus accumbens and the left and right amygdala were the four main regions of the brain observed for the study. The nucleus accumbens deals with the cognitive functions of reward, pleasure, and addiction. The amygdala is involved in emotional processes.
The study concluded that there were observable shape abnormalities in young adults who use marijuana even though they were recreational users. The grey matter density analysis revealed that marijuana users had a greater density values in the left nucleus accumbens and left amygdala than in control patients. The study also reported an increase in the left nucleus accumbens volumes of the marijuana users. There was also a significance between the controls and marijuana users in the shape of these regions. All these results were associated with marijuana drug use behaviors. The study demonstrated that marijuana causes morphometric abnormalities to the brain of young adults even if they are non-dependant.
Should this new published study cause concern for young adults today who identify with the participants of the study? Is marijuana more harmful then it was once believed? Further studies must be done for further conclusions. This study, however, does shed a light on the physical effects on young adults’ brains that are still evolving. Hopefully this study makes young adults think more about the physical effects that marijuana has on the brain when they pass around a blunt for recreational purposes.