Alcohol Worse for Young Brains Than Marijuana

Apr 01, 2009 , ,

The journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience has just published a review of the data on the effects of substance use on the developing brains of adolescents. The unmistakable conclusion: While heavy substance use of any kind is a really bad idea for teens, the damaging effects of alcohol are clearly worse than marijuana. The researchers write:

Abnormalities have been seen in brain structure volume, white matter quality, and activation to cognitive tasks, even in youth with as little as 1-2 years of heavy drinking and consumption levels of 20 drinks per month, especially if >4-5 drinks are consumed on a single occasion. Heavy marijuana users show some subtle anomalies too, but generally not the same degree of divergence from demographically similar non-using adolescents.

Strikingly, in a couple of studies, the damaging effects of binge drinking were less if the drinker also used marijuana, suggesting — though not proving — a possible protective effect in some circumstances. That’s actually no shock, as the U.S. government holds a patent  on cannabinoids — marijuana’s unique, active components — as neuroprotectants (substances that protect nerve and brain cells from damage).

24 responses to “Alcohol Worse for Young Brains Than Marijuana”

  1. Perhaps the U.S. government’s patent is the very reason they won’t talk to us about marijuana legalization. Perhaps that’s why Obama says it’s not a good idea for our economy.

    They want all the money for future prescription cannabinoids and THC to themselves. Forget taxation. Pharmaceuticals are where the money’s at and YOUR money is what the government wants.

    I can’t think of anything more dangerous than a government body being in the business of pharmaceuticals. Scary!

  2. if that is true and cannabinoids turn out to really reduce the harmfull effects on the brain from again, and other potentially destructive devices then the goverment should be ashamed of the way they have vilified mj. i have a feeling in the future it will prove true the broad medical effect of cannibis.

  3. Funny…I learned this same ‘scientific fact 33 years ago when I got whiskey drunk & puked – while pot made me happy, hungry & sleepy. I never drank again & for 33 years have been a responsible, job holding-tax paying, pot smoking citizen.


  4. The only time I ever missed work due to weed was when I took the rest of the afternoon off to get baked with my employees. They didn’t seem to mind.

  5. well….. WE already know this.Don’t get me wrong,positive studies/news and truth is always welcome-the world needs to know these things.
    don’t forget,all that untaxed money is LEAVING our country,what kind of damage does that do to our economy and the American dollar value?? Legalization would put up a financial border fence keeping money circulating at local/state/federal levels….simple concept

  6. I wonder, Christian Conservative, why the home grower of cannabis should be subject to a permit fee if the home wine maker or beer brewer or tobacco grower is not…especially since marijuana is less harmful to the user than the other legal substances.

  7. Thankyou for your excellent article !

    Yes, Alcohol is the largest scourge of the world. Trying to convince our Government Officials for the desperate need, of mandatory health warning labels on all liquor containers, is probably as difficult as pulling out their freaking teeth !

    At this time, their are 5 most common afflictions that have been solely caused through moderate drinking of hard liquor (or what many of us recover alcoholics called moderate, that being 2-3 stiff drinks per day…….Medical authorities have now admitted it should be 1-2 per week maximum).
    And they are (in no particular order either):
    -Grand Mal Seizures
    -Progressive permenant deafness
    -Progressive permenant blindness
    -Progressive corroded livers
    -Heart Attacks
    And all having no cure what-so-ever.

    Why not simply do what they’ve already inforced on cigarette manufacturers, only we’re not asking for a vile photo, no, just a simple one sentence line, health warning ?

    And, marijuana ??? My dearest late Aunt, who was dedicated 100% to many Church activities, & knew the Bible inside & out, was put on prescription marijuana based medication in the last 4 yrs of her life, and it did indeed help her pain & suffering !
    So, if my extremely Godly Aunt agreed to take this medication & did find some relief ? Then why in the name of all that is good and holy, is it not legalized ???
    Perhaps they could save many lives destroyed by liquor, if they actually did so ???

    May God help us all !

    God Bless you for this deligent effort you’ve made here !

  8. PLLLLLLLLLLLLLLEase release this wonderful herb to the world…its stupid that when watching debates for the pros and cons, people start to make excuses of this and that tit for tat….doesn’t matter, it’s suppose to be a free society, this is where the root of the problem is, if it were legal here then i can go to my country of jordan and light up rather then get piss drunk, couple of years ago i went to jordan, amman and had a couple of buds, got caught went to jail for a week, with some help from insiders that my family knows, i could have been in there for 3 months!!!! its not like american jails, your literally there and they will make you cry…i felt like a murder..but anyway..

    please free the weed life is short and we need relief from this stressful society.

  9. Taxing the backyard grower is an impossibility. But fortunately Americans are notoriously lazy when it comes to producing things for themselves and there will be a HUGE commercial market. Thats where the real revenue potential lies.
    Of course weed will have to also offset revenue losses from the ever diminishing demand for alcohol.

  10. People need to stop being so hard on Obama for his statements regarding marijuana. He is (politically) a kid. He doesn’t know what to do with himself in the office of president, and I don’t blame him. I can’t imagine those responsibilities at 47 with hardly any experience. Good luck to him, and I hope he starts listening a little closer to his people.

  11. @BEn: If he were politically a kid he would never have been elected President. Mind you, that does not mean he has an unusual wisdom or ability to speak for the people. But it certainly means he knows how to play the game that is politics.

    Don’t let him off so easily. He doesn’t need to embrace a politically radical position without showing some respect and thought for the topic. He laughed at the people, plain and simple.

    Also, while I doubt there is a scientific ground to claim that marijuana actually prevents brain problems, this just tells us what we already knew. Alcohol is more harmful than marijuana in every possible way. Good post Bruce, thanks.

  12. Ben, I want him to do well too, honestly. I think we’re all still pretty upset though with him having insulted us the way he did, by invited us all to his open forum and then laughing at us once we got there. It certainly wouldn’t hurt him politically to apologize to us and explain his thoughts on the subject, rather than brush it off, which he didn’t do for any other question that was asked of him. Is that really asking too much?

  13. Shit, damn the lack of an edit button. Second paragraph should read “embrace a radical position to show some respect…”

    My bad.

  14. Dear Bruce Mirken,
    I had no idea the government had a registered patent on cannabinoids! At the same time, how can the DEA have any credibility classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug having knowledge of this patent? In light of this report it’s not to hard to understand why so many Countries outside of the USA are at odds with American Law and Justice. It doesn’t make any sense to me either how we’ve become a super power on this planet with this type of confusion within one government.

    Is there any chance your blog might shed some light on a better understanding to readers on how the various agencies like DEA and Health & Human Resources simply don’t match under one government?

  15. If this is a government for the people why dont they just make it up to the state to vote and make it our decision whether or not we as PEOPLE of this united states want to legalize marijuana or not. Instead of letting it be up to the federal government.

  16. To answer Tennessee Activist: On one level it’s generally appropriate that NIH scientists not take orders from DEA and vice versa. But the government has of late stated its position in ways that accomodate the existence of this patent and other evidence of the value of cannabinoids. Essentially, they say, “Sure, some components of marijuana may have medical value, but not that nasty plant.” It’s silly, of course, but in a medical culture that strongly prefers pills over plant based products, they get away with it.

  17. Enough already! Start the petition drives! I’ll volunteer.
    If smoking a bowl is less damaging to teens (and the rest of us) than a beer bust then there is no reason for marijuana to remain illegal. Queen Victoria used pot to alleviate her menstrual cramps, so since it was okay for her, it’s okay for you. You should be free to fire up a joint (none for me, thanks, I don’t like it.)
    It Hillary is correct that root of The Drug Problem is America’s Insatiable Appetite, then legalizing all drug use would really help our neighbors to the South to get a handle on the high level of Cartel and drug gang violence by de-funding them, just as when the end of Alcohol Prohibition brought down bootleggers and struck a big blow against organized crime. A rational “market” solution: Legalize it, commercialize it, tax it. IMHO this could be done with all drug use. Drug Abuse is it’s own best lesson: You either learn it, or you die. Either way, problem solved. Harsh but true.
    Drug prevention & education dollars go a good deal further than interdiction & enforcement dollars. Interdiction is a total waste of time and money as it obviously does not work. People are still getting high. As for the public safety issues like inebriated driving, etc, dollars spent on treatment and rehab is better than on law enforcement law enforcement, jails, prisons & parole. Pot-heads can be treated the same way as alcoholics across the board.
    Now I’ve seen plenty of boozed-up people get in fist-fights, but I’ve yet to see anyone baked ever throw a punch, so there is a chance that marijuana = less violence here at home. There are a lot of aggro people out there right now, what with the economy in a shambles and all, and it just might help everyone if those aggro types would just chill and fire up a big spliff.
    I’m not big on moralists, elected officials or entrenched bureaucrats dictating what I can and can’t do. I mean, this is supposed to be a free country, right? If I want to poison my body, not put on my seat belt or fail to don a motorcycle helmet then that should be my choice, shouldn’t it? Of course if that qualifies me for an automatic DNR, then I’ll gladly eschew drug use, wear my seat belt & strap that helmet on. There, another Market Solution.
    Tell you what I’m going to do to help stimulate the economy: First, I’m buying one of those shirts that reads “Somebody Should Buy You A Bong.” Next I’m designing a logo and a trade name for my imaginary backyard marijuana farm, say, “Motorod’s So-Cal Hemp,” and file my trademark papers so I can start growing and selling this stuff as soon as it’s decriminalized. Then I’ll start circulating petitions to get marijuana legalized. Now marijuana legalization may not work as a stimulus for the national economy, but it would certainly help mine. Oh yeah, and invest heavily in Frito-Lay. (Oops, I should have kept that one to myself.)
    Of course, pot growing is dead easy. From what I’ve read virtually anyone can grow pot. Sorry Monsanto: No fertilizers, no pesticides. There’s also very little in the way of plant care and it is a low-water crop. Darned sight less effort than I already put into my tomatoes and zucchini. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? A gardener’s dream, so I’ll have loads of competition, but then competition is what America is all about, isn’t it? Of course, R. J. Reynolds is probably ready to Rock ‘n’Roll on this right now. Darn.
    Even so, if hemp farming was good enough for our Founding Fathers, then it’s good enough for me.

  18. I am going to have to agree with Osama hehehe. Nice name by the way. He said in Jordan it is punishable by jail just for smoking. This made me realize, we need to legalize Marijuana not only in Canada, but the Entire World. Only then will the true destructive effects of the Herb be eliminated. It is almost harmless, other than abuse by youth, and it is Illegal. Would you rather your of age (18-21) year old son or daughter, buy marijuana at a store, or from a Dealer; who may very well have more than just marijuana. Eg. Meth. Heroine. Crack. These drugs should be regulated in another fashion and Marijuana should be legal for an age limit recreationally. I don’t feel Medical or “legitimate” use of Cannabis has negative effects as it can be ingested rather than smoked for less of an effect on your thought process and more dedicated to medicinal affects. Don’t trust Pharmaceutical industry. Go Herbal all the way. Depression? St.John’s Wort. Flu? Echinacea or Ginger. Don’t ever use Antibiotics unless absolutely 100% necessary. Your body is tougher than you think.

  19. I saw this patent the other day, and I’m not a chemist, so would need to do some further reading to understand, but simplistically and to the best of my current understanding, the U.S. Government has patented a chemical chain derived from the natural form of marijuana, the cannibinoid, that doesn’t have the psychoactive effects of cannibinol.

    I see two problems. First, the DofI, which mentions Pursuit of Happiness (could easily be a joke, lol, but I don’t mean it that way) as an inalienable right, and how this relates to prohibiting non-harmful psychoactive effects (who gives a damn other than the person themselves). Second, the patent’s text would seem to positively reinforce its use as a PTSD treatment, I believed mentioned recently here from Isreali- and German-based research, as that seems to be nerve oriented, from what I’ve been able to discern. So, the government is actively denying healthcare by holding this patent and simultaneously prohibiting the plant and sales of the plant’s natural product (leaf and bud) when it’s prescribed by an MD, and denying self-medication with cannabis in the absence of a prescription.

    So I guess my question is why hasn’t there been a class action lawsuit based upon an inalienable right to pursue happiness, that congress, or any other government agency including congress cannot constitutionally deny, and is actively involved in promoting sickness by denying the use of a natural medicine that at least helps sick folks to cope with certain symptoms, and which has scientifically proven health-enhancing benefits for some conditions.

    It may be possible to tie this into the right of a government to prohibit something which the earth naturally provides, and by so doing, set itself up to be the patented licensee when its medical use is finally “allowed”. In otherwords, it’s a corrupt and vile raquet deserving RICO investigation and prosecution.

    Oh, well, when the prosecutors are in your employ, and your’e the current head of the executive branch, nobody would order a RICO investigation of themselves.

    Well, it was a thought. Maybe someone here will get something from it.

  20. Slightly off topic, but I just finished watching the 10AM edition of the Today Show with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb and they began the show by teaching you how to do shots of tequila with lime and salt. They actually did shots on the air. I thought there was a law against consuming alcohol on air.

    What does this say about the attitudes of Americans when it comes to drugs and legalisation?

  21. I have just found there is a petition to legalize Mj for MD and Personal use you can find it here
    all I did was a quick little internet search and clicked on the first of many listings for petition to legalize marijuana and found only 35,000 + people have signed it. what would happen if we The United People of America all signed this?
    Are the days of our prohibition coming to an end? I prey they are, but my logical thinking tells me otherwise.

    Mr. President Please listen to the people that you represent!

    I mean how many people in the world are begging there Gov. to tax them on something that they enjoy? I can’t think of anything in history that the good people of a county actually ask to be taxed on.
    Yet here we are Asking and begging, TAX ME I want to be free to enjoy a harmless little plant.

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