The findings show that regular smokers of marijuana have, on average, a smaller brain than those who have never used marijuana.
Long-term marijuana use can affect the brain, reports a new study. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the study characterizes brain alterations associated with chronic marijuana use. Using a structural MRI and a functional connectivity MRI, researchers assessed gray matter volume, white matter integrity, and abnormal regions.
According to the Seattle Times, the findings show that regular smokers of marijuana have, on average, a smaller brain than those who have never used marijuana. In particular, there is less gray matter in the orbital frontal cortex. However, this study is unable to conclude whether the brain differences are due to habitual marijuana use or what cause the marijuana use.
Another study, completed in 2012, found that subjects with a smaller orbital frontal cortex at age 12 were more likely to start using marijuana by age 16. Combined with the new study, these findings suggest that deficits in this crucial region may predispose one to substance-abuse behaviors. Additionally, previous studies involving mice confirm the correlation between marijuana use and structural changes in the brain.
Despite a shift toward legalization of marijuana, as described by Drug Policy Alliance, this study is a reminder of the dangers. Also, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan declared a State of Emergency on Aug. 14 as a result of overdoses in the state from use or misuse of the synthetic cannabinoid identified as Smacked. As part of the state of emergency, various authorities will work together to isolate and destroy the synthetic drug, as well as investigate. In addition to Smacked, at least two other brands of synthetic cannabinoid have tested positive for controlled substances.