Weed affects teen & adult brains equally, claims study

Liz Filmer
31 Aug 2023

A recent study has demonstrated that cannabis use is associated with changes in the brain's executive control network in both adolescent and adult cannabis users, contradicting the concept that young adults may be more susceptible to changes in the brain network.

'Cannabis use is widespread among adults and adolescents, and much conflicting evidence exists about the relative harms and safety of regular marijuana use. We wanted to investigate how regular marijuana use might disproportionately affect brain networks in this group.' - study author. 

The researchers wanted to see if there are differences between individuals who regularly use cannabis and those who do not. Previous research had focused on differences in brain function, and this study sought to clarify them further.

The data collected from participants included information on their drug history, risk-taking behaviour, and any symptoms of depression. Researchers expected the differences in brain function between the age groups of cannabis users to show that adolescent users are more vulnerable to the effects of cannabis on the brain. However, they "were surprised to discover no difference between the two age groups."

There were no major differences in cannabis use frequency and network connectivity. This highlights that the relationship between cannabis use and brain connectivity is more complex than initially thought and may not be solely determined by frequency of use.

The findings demonstrate that "regular cannabis use may affect attention pathways and high-level task performance." Still, its effects on teens seem similar to those of adults.

This research delivers valuable information surrounding the connection between cannabis use and resting-state functional connectivity in the brain. However, the brain is very complex. Due to this and the variety of individual responses to cannabis use, further research is needed to understand the effect of cannabis on brain networks.

In this study, the cannabis user participants were considered "regular users" but not "heavy users". This means there is a grey area over whether the findings of this study can be valid for problematic users.

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Liz Filmer