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Youth Cannabis Exposure Is Not Associated With Changes In Brain Morphology

brain brain

When it comes to cannabis politics, you will be hardpressed to find a talking point that is more popular among cannabis opponents than the ‘what about the children’ talking point.

Opposing cannabis reform in the context of politics is almost entirely based on fear-mongering and incorporating scare tactics, and using the thought of children in hypothetical doomsday scenarios is a common strategy for cannabis opponents.

One specific talking point relating to youth that cannabis opponents go to early and often relates to youth cannabis use and the young person’s brain. Cannabis opponents act as if one puff off of a joint will cause brain damage to the youth for the rest of the youth’s life.

To be clear, cannabis should be kept away from young people unless it’s for medical use approved by the youth’s doctor(s). With that being said, it’s an obvious fact that some young people will try cannabis, and according to a recent study out of Australia, such use will not result in changes in brain morphology.

Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Canberra, Australia: Cannabis exposure is not associated with significant changes in brain morphology in young adults, according to a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

A team of Australian researchers reviewed sixteen studies in order to assess whether cannabis exposure is associated with changes in brain volume. The review samples included 830 participants with a mean age of 22.5 years old. Of these, 386 were marijuana users (with cannabis use onset at 15-19 years) and 444 were controls.

Researchers identified no significant differences between youth cannabis users and controls in global and regional brain volumes.

“This meta-analysis of structural MRI findings specific to youth regular cannabis users suggests no volume alterations, and no effect of age and cannabis use level on group differences in volumetry,” authors concluded. “Important areas for future work include measuring and embracing the role of cannabis potency, pubertal stage, and personal (and parental) education, to identify which brain maturation stage is most vulnerable to cannabis-related brain and mental health/wellbeing. New knowledge will be necessary to provide clear recommendations for preventive interventions targeting youth at risk and update addiction theory with novel mechanistic insights into neurodevelopment.”

Full text of the study, “Brain anatomical alterations in young cannabis users: A meta-analysis of structural neuroimaging studies,” appears in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘Marijuana Exposure and Cognitive Performance.’