A new study by Daniel G. Amen, a celebrity doctor, best-selling author and founder of Amen Clinics, has found that marijuana use and alcohol consumption accelerates brain aging by 0.6 years and 2.8 years respectively.
The study, which is thought to be the largest brain imaging study ever conducted, involved the analysis of no less than 62,454 SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans taken from more than 30,000 people. The people scanned were aged between nine months and 105 years.
Its aim was to determine the factors that contribute most to the brain again. One of the findings in addition to the effects of alcohol and marijuana use that the study made was that brain disorders such as schizophrenia, ADD and bipolar disorder contribute significantly to brain deterioration.
Dr. Amen stated his belief that his findings on cannabis were particularly significant when put in the context of the global push to legalize the substance. He also added that it doesn’t appear to be as safe as the movement for it to be viewed as a harmless way to unwind would have you believe.
“Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain. Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging. The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it,” he added.
In the US alone, some eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, namely Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, and Massachusetts, while a further 22 states have laws that allow for marijuana use by providing limited access to it under certain conditions.
A recent Gallup poll found that some 64% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, numbers that have never been seen before. The reason for this is believed to be the huge amount of researching pointing to marijuana being one of the least harmful drugs available. With that being said, this study appears to show that its effects on the brain might be more severe than previously thought.
BONUS - Listen to Dr. Amen speak about brain aging in his own words:
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