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Ask Dr. Nandi: Study shows alcohol is worse for the brain than marijuana

Posted at 5:50 PM, Feb 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-19 17:50:12-05

With marijuana being legalized for medical and recreational purposes all over the country, lots of new questions are popping up. Like this one -- which is worse for your brain, marijuana or alcohol?

Believe or not, a new study was just commissioned to address this issue. 

In order to figure out the answer, scientists from the University of Boulder in Colorado conducted an analysis of more than 13 hundred brain scans of adults and teenagers. All of them used various amounts of alcohol and marijuana. 

The researchers wanted to know if either of these drugs affected the gray and white matter in the brain. This would tell them if there had been obvious changes in cognition.

What they found was that drinking alcohol was associated with long-term changes in the structure of both gray and white matter in the brain.

Marijuana, on the other hand, did not appear to affect the structure or size of either. 

This seems to indicate that alcohol is actually worse for your brain than smoking marijuana - although I think we’d need to see a few more studies to be able to say that definitively. 

So here are my prescriptions when it comes to these two drugs: 

  1. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional drink. But if you do drink, indulge responsibly.
  2. Remember that using any drug in excess can lead to addiction. This is true for both alcohol and marijuana. 
  3. There are some medical conditions, such as severe pain, for which marijuana can provide some benefit. 
  4. The legality of marijuana now varies from state to state. Please know and obey local laws.