What is marijuana’s effects on brain cells? Does marijuana grow brain cells? Or does it destroy them? Learn more about the impact that cannabis has on your brain.
There are countless rumors surrounding marijuana use, passed as often as joints between potheads and prohibitionists alike. They spread quickly, each based off of an often misunderstood interpretation of the latest scientific study.
Marijuana is the ultimate gateway drug. Or it keeps people from using harder drugs.
Marijuana causes cancer. Or it cures cancer.
Marijuana is completely harmless. Or the health risks lurk in the smoke, waiting to strike.
One of the biggest debates, though, is about the impact that marijuana has on brain cells.
Does marijuana grow brain cells? Does it destroy them? Or does the plant have a relatively minimal impact on brain structure overall?
Does Smoking Marijuana Grow Brain Cells?
In 2005, The Globe and Mail published an article covering a study done by Dr. Xia Zhang and his team of researchers. Their research showed that when some rats were given synthetic cannabinoids, they experienced the growth of new brain cells in their hippocampus.
Zhang’s study also noticed that the use of cannabinoids minimized feelings of depression and anxiety. This encouraged their suggestion of a correlation between the regrowth of brain cells and a decrease in mood swings.
The study swept the stoner community by storm, igniting much talk of the positive potentials of marijuana use. If smoking weed encouraged the growth of brain cells, how could it possibly be bad?
How Much Weight Does Zhang’s Study Hold?
It’s easy to pick out the portions of a story that complement what you’d like to be true. When Zhang released the research from his study, publications picked parts to make it easier for everyday individuals to understand.
However, along with the news that rats experienced brain cell regeneration, Zhang also pointed out, “There’s a big gap between rats and humans.” He also mentioned the fact that the synthetic, lab-produced cannabinoids were much more pure than the marijuana you could buy from your local dealer.
There was no reason for anyone to rush out and pick up a sack to make themselves smarter. Long strides existed between Zhang’s research and its application in real life scenarios. Although the weed that exists today is much cleaner and stronger than what you could buy 13 years ago following the initial study, there is still limited research supporting his initial claim.
Does Smoking Weed Decrease Your IQ Level?
Marijuana prohibitionists latched onto a different study that revealed results rather opposite to those of Zhang’s: some cannabis users experienced an 8-point drop in their IQ level after smoking heavily for 20 years.
These anti-marijuana advocates point to a 2012 study from Duke University that looked at test results from 1,000 individuals in New Zealand. The study followed participants from their birth in the years 1972 and 1973 until they turned 38 years old.
Regular testing at the ages of 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 gathered information about their use of cannabis and other substances. Those considered “chronic users,” who showed a persistent pattern of use, experienced an average loss of 8 IQ points from their initial testing at age 18.
The study was met with sighs of relief from advocates who stand behind their claims that marijuana is only a harm and not a help. Still, researchers in the study said that their results did not “prove” that cannabis was the only reason for individuals’ decrease in IQ score. They acknowledged that unknown variables may have had an impact on their research.
The Impact of Cannabis on Your Brain
So does marijuana actually grow brain cells like Zhang theorized? Or does it destroy brain function as seen in the results of the Duke study? Much time has elapsed since Zhang’s study but Duke’s researchers also pointed out the potential impact of outside influences on their results.
Ultimately, there is no definitive answer on whether or not marijuana grows brain cells or breaks them down. It is difficult to come to an end-all, be-all conclusion with the existence of so much conflicting research. Still, many believe that cannabis does not break the brain down in the way other substances like alcohol and hard drugs do.
Regardless of its impact on your brain in comparison to other drugs, some people still find themselves dependent upon it. There are many who insist that the plant is not addictive but those who struggle with marijuana dependence understand otherwise.
It can be incredibly difficult to stop using cannabis once you are fully dependent on it. Some people rely upon it to eat, sleep, relax, and function in everyday life without being high. For these people, life without weed seems impossible.
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