You’ve probably heard that drinking alcohol and smoking weed are pretty bad for you, but is one worse than the other? Turns out, the answer is yes. And it’s probably not what you think.
A new study says that for teens, smoking weed is actually not as dangerous in terms of brain damage as drinking alcohol is. Researchers did a bunch of tests on 92 people between the ages of 16 and 20. Half of them already drank alcohol and used marijuana regularly, while the other half either abstained completely or kept their use down to a minimum.
Here’s what they found through brain scans over time: Teens who drank five or more alcoholic beverages twice a week or more–essentially binge drinking–had damage to their brain tissue that could cause memory loss, attention deficit problems, and issues with decision making not only immediately, but also later in life going into adulthood. (Ruh roh!) One of the researchers explained that it becomes a pretty vicious cycle when that happens: “If teens decrease their tissue health and cognitive ability to inhibit themselves, they might become more likely to engage in risky behavior like excessive substance use.” Yikes!
A separate study showed that drinking alcohol lowered test scores, and it happened differently for girls and guys. Girls had a harder time with reading comprehension and interpreting visuals, while guys just struggled to pay attention to what they were doing. (So if you planned on boozing up, we’re not going to tell you what to do–but you just might want to wait until after you take your SATs.)
Meanwhile, the test subjects who kept on smoking weed showed very little to no brain damage. Pretty interesting considering one is legal when you’re 21 and the other isn’t (depending on where you live, that is), isn’t it?
Still, don’t get too excited about the effects of marijuana (or the apparent lack thereof) just yet. The scientists in the study said that a lot of research results on marijuana haven’t been consistent because there are a lot of variables involved. “One reason is that marijuana can really vary. Different strains contain different levels of THC and other marijuana components,” one researcher explained. “For example, some studies have suggested one component, cannabidiol, may actually have neuroprotective effects.” (Basically, different types of marijuana can affect you differently–and one component of marijuana may actually be good for you, but they’re not sure.)
One could argue that if marijuana were legalized, it could be regulated the way alcohol is, so that the different ingredients and components could be recognized and understood better, but that may not happen. And while smoking weed may not have shown brain damage in this particular study, another showed that using marijuana for a long time can actually lower your I.Q., which is pretty scary.
Do you think drinking alcohol is really more harmful than smoking weed? Do you think smoking weed has long-term negative effects? If you drink alcohol or smoke weed, have you noticed a difference in your grades? Tell us in the comments!