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April 24, 2014 at 12:10 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Study Shows Pot May LITERALLY Shrink The Brain!

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

This past weekend, an estimated 80,000 people descended upon Denver, Colorado to celebrate Marijuana. An expo on various strains of weed, The High Times Cannabis Cup was center stage.  Canna-busses brought participants to various marijuana themed sites around the city to celebrate the evolution to legalized medical use to legalized sales and recreational use.  "Rocky mountain high" has taken on a new meaning.  While connoisseurs touted various varieties of pot and lay medical marijuana persons touted marijuana's numerous benefits, a research study was revealed exposing another side to the drug.

"Celebration in Colorado as Marijuana is legalized for recreational use." Photo Credit:

The Study

While CNN covered the marijuana revelry in Denver this week, a pot-related study was published in a not-so-well-known journal, The Journal of Neuroscience. This study was different. While most studies on marijuana use have focused on chronic, heavy users, this study examined the more common, younger recreational user. 

Participants were between the ages of 18 and 25 and used marijuana recreationally, between one and seven joints per week. They underwent brain scans to examine different parts of the brain, comparing size and appearance to a control group that had no exposure to marijuana.

The Findings

Changes were noted in the marijuana users proportional to number of joints smoked per week in two important areas. These areas, the nucleus accumbens and the nucleus amygdala, are crucial in regulating emotion and motivation. In the marijuana test group, these areas were smaller on scans and had further changes in shape and density. According to a commentary by Hans Bieter, senior author on the study, "What we're seeing is changes in people who are 18 to 25 in core brain regions that you never, ever want to fool around with."

Photo Credit: Rafael-Castillo@flickr

The Significance

It's easy to make the leap beyond the study findings: pot use in young adults leads to shrunken amygdala and nucleus accumbens leads to apathy and lack of motivation-- the stereotypical "pothead." But though it may be telling us what we already know, we must be careful to stick to the science here. In this climate of open doors to marijuana use, it is important to remind ourselves that marijuana, if it is helpful, is a double-edged sword.  Like so many substances we take into our body, there is a balance between what is good about it and what is harmful about it.  That being said, use with caution as this drug may have lasting consequences on the brain.

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1 Comment

  • OMG I love this comment: "Rocky mountain high" has taken on a new meaning.

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