Post prepared by Amanda Baker, Drexel University College of Medicine Class of 2014
A study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Harvard researchers have linked casual marijuana use to structural changes in distinct areas of the brain.
These areas, the nucleus accumbens and amygdala, and are largely involved in recognition of reward, motivation, fear, and memory. In this study, the brain scans of 20 young adult casual marijuana users were compared to those of 20 young adult non-users.
While the results clearly demonstrated significant structural differences between the two groups, the structural changes have not been correlated with consequences in mental or physical functioning. In other words, researchers aren’t entirely sure of the impact of these brain changes.
The debate regarding the use of marijuana medically and recreationally is ongoing in the United States.
Although the Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) categorizes this drug as Schedule I, “with currently no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”, many argue that there is, in fact, much benefit to medical marijuana, especially in comparison to other sedating pain medications.
This is reflected in 21 state laws which have legalized medical marijuana to varying degrees.
Last summer, Dr. Sanjay Gupta completed a documentary “Weed” highlighting the benefit of medical marijuana:
However, some states such as Washington and Colorado, have gone one step further by legalizing marijuana for both recreational and medical use.
Given the ongoing research on the effects of marijuana, perhaps this new study will call into question continued legalization of the most widely used recreational drug in America.
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