I don’t use recreational drugs. Never have. There are several reasons for that. For one thing, the only thing I really have going for me is my brain and I’ve never felt that putting that at risk was worth it. Additionally, my family tends to have what are referred to as idiosyncratic or paradoxical reactions to drugs. You know those warnings in fine print that you receive on the handouts that accompany prescription medicines these days? The ones that begin “In some rare cases…” That’s me. Example: one of my siblings was recently prescribed post-operative pain medication. It induced extreme pain.
All of that notwithstanding I’ve long felt that marijuana should be legalized or, at the very least, it should be legalized for medical purposes. However, findings like this make me wonder about the prudence of that course of action:
Young adults who used marijuana only recreationally showed significant abnormalities in two key brain regions that are important in emotion and motivation, scientists report. The study was a collaboration between Northwestern Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
This is the first study to show casual use of marijuana is related to major brain changes. It showed the degree of brain abnormalities in these regions is directly related to the number of joints a person smoked per week. The more joints a person smoked, the more abnormal the shape, volume and density of the brain regions.
“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” said corresponding and co-senior study author Hans Breiter, M.D. He is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week,” Breiter said. “People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.”
The study was small and local and, honestly, there could be other explanations for the results they found but it’s interesting.
Abnormal development in the areas of the brain they studied is associated with abnormal responses to learning, fear, aggression, and impulsivity, just to name a few. If there’s anything we need more of, it’s indifferent or unmotivated kids with learning difficulties.
As I see things, the present spirit of the times is moving in the direction of some sort of legalization of marijuana. We might want to think about some of the more longitudinal implications of that before getting too far down that road.