Many scientists have sought for answers regarding the true effects of using marijuana, but only recently did researchers come up with comprehensive findings to shed light into this highly debated topic.
A new study, published in the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed that addictive cannabis use at an early age could pose long-term effects on your brain, including the shrinking of your IQ.
It causes the gray matter to decrease in volume, although the shrinking is compensated by the increased neuron connectivity of the white matter.
Pot smoking also affects the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the part of the brain that’s related to your decision-making. Researchers found that the damage could lead to disinhibited behavior, which is excessive swearing, hypersexuality, and poor social interaction.
The researchers compared two groups of participants—non-users and users. A total of 48 marijuana users participated in this study—all have started smoking weed between ages 14 to 30. The average of the participant was 18. Most said that they have been using the substance for 10 years, while some have been smoking weed for three decades. On the other hand, there were a total of 62 non-users aged 20 to 36 years old.
In order to determine abnormalities at a detectable level, the cannabis users smoked pot about thrice a day on average. All participants went through IQ testing and had an MRI scan. The team controlled factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, along with alcohol and tobacco use.
The results showed that users got a lower IQ score compared to non-users. In the study, those who used marijuana regularly tallied five points lower on average.
Shrinkage and Deterioration
According to Sina Aslan, one of the authors of the study, the unique thing about this research is it combined three MRI techniques to properly evaluate a variety of brain characteristics. “The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for gray matter losses. Eventually, however, the structural connectivity or ‘wiring’ of the brain starts degrading with prolonged marijuana use,” she said.
Other Researchers Say Otherwise
A different study in the UK, however, revealed a different result. The research exposed no link between cannabis use and poor educational performance among teenagers. This extensive study, which started in the early 1990s, argues lower IQ in marijuana users may not necessarily be because of smoking pot; it could have resulted from lifestyle and social habits.
These polar findings only call for more research to be conducted to get a better understanding toward the effects of smoking weed.