People who smoke marijuana regularly may have lower IQs than those who don’t, or maybe they don’t. A recent study by the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas is rather inconclusive on the whole thing, despite the study making headlines as pure fact.
The study, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, tested 48 marijuana users between the age of 14 and 30 and found that they had an IQ of about five points lower than the control group of 62 nonusers. Researchers showed that the cannabis users had an increase in gray matter in the orbitofrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making. Researchers say they also screened participants for drug and tobacco use.
While interesting, there’s any number of things that can cause similar decreases – notably tobacco smoking, which is far more prevalent than cannabis use. Certain medications for things like ADHD and OCD can also cause gray matter to shrink. Same with booze. In fact the orbitofrontal cortex has been shown to have deficits when people have addictive personalities in general. So, the fact that they found it among heavy users of pot isn’t all that statistically important or new. You’d find the same thing in the brains of people with drug, alcohol, sex, glue, eating and many other disorders.
Oh, and you can grow your gray matter through things like daily meditation.
Finally, there’s no link between the decrease in the gray matter and IQ, as no correlation was proven. The scientists point out that even their study doesn’t actually prove a correlation.
“While our study does not conclusively address whether any or all of the brain changes are a direct consequence of marijuana use, these effects do suggest that these changes are related to age of onset and duration of use,” Dr. Francesca Filbey, head researcher on the study at the University of Texas in Dallas said.
But, like any substance, it’s best to use in moderation. Cannabis — like any substance — can become a crutch to people and if you think you’re abusing it, you shouldn’t ignore the signs. Find ways to moderate your usage or, if it is best for you, cut it out of your life. Just because we’re pro pot here, doesn’t mean we think everyone should be using cannabis all the time. That should be the message of the whole article, but instead it’s spun into a public health nightmare that all the stoners are going to be running stupidly amok soon enough.
And of course, the feds loved results they can spin in their favor:
“This is a complex and interesting study that adds to the growing body of evidence that heavy marijuana use, particularly at a young age, is linked to significant adverse brain changes,” said Dr. SusanWeiss, associate director for Scientific Affairs at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This study showed that the orbitofrontal cortex, an area involved in reward, decision making and motivation, was smaller in heavy users and that other brain circuits were enhanced, likely to compensate for the diminished function in that region. Further prospective studies are needed to clarify this, but these mounting scientific findings certainly challenge the widespread belief that marijuana is a harmless drug.”
Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, told CNN that the study was junk.
“Once again, researchers have failed to find any conclusive evidence that marijuana use causes mental health problems,” Tvert said in a release. “The researchers note their findings are nonconclusive, that they might be skewed by other factors, and that effects, if any, could be temporary. The study doesn’t justify keeping marijuana illegal, nor does it say anything about making it legal. There remains no doubt that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol to the brain and to the rest of the body. The possibility that marijuana might have some harm for some people — but might not — is not a good reason to keep arresting and punishing hundreds of thousands of adults simply for using it.”