Alcohol Irreversibly Damages The Brain More Than Marijuana In Adults

brain health alcohol marijuana

Chronic alcohol use can cause the brain to waste away more so than marijuana use, compromising both the gray and white matter in the brain, according to the latest research.


What Is Considered Moderate Drinking?

According to the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, moderate drinking is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. That translates into seven drinks a week for women and fourteen drinks a week for men. Which is why, when it comes to vices, marijuana may be the lesser of two recreational evils, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction, more so, if you’re an adult.

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Gray and White Matter Matters

The brain has two types of tissue, white matter, that holds the brain together and gray matter that contains 'thinking cells.” The gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in muscle control, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making, and self-control. White matter contains millions of nerve fibers, or axons, that connect other parts of the brain and spinal cord and signal your nerves to talk to one another.

Habitual Alcohol Use Lessens Essential Gray Matter

Chronic alcohol use is associated with lower gray matter volume. Researchers reported recently that alcohol use showed negative associations with widespread gray matter volume even among young adults.

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Testing Cannabis Versus Alcohol

The current study aimed to test the strength of association between:

(1) alcohol use and gray matter volume;
(2) alcohol use and white matter integrity;
(3) cannabis use and gray matter volume; and
(4) cannabis use and white matter integrity among adults and adolescents.

The current analysis included adults aged 18–55 years and adolescents aged 14–18 years with a range of alcohol and cannabis use.The dependent variable was gray matter volume or white matter integrity, with key predictors of alcohol use. An Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score was used compared with cannabis use (past 30-day use).

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Alcohol Diminishes Both Gray and White Matter In Adults

Researchers found that alcohol use showed large clusters of negative associations with gray matter volume in the brain among adults and to a lesser extent among adolescents. Large clusters showed significant associations of higher alcohol use with poorer white matter integrity, whereas adolescents showed no significant associations between alcohol use and white matters. No associations were observed between structural measures and past 30-day cannabis use in adults or adolescents.

In the end, the study revealed that alcohol use severity is associated with a widespread lower amount of gray matter volume in the brain and white matter integrity in adults, and with lower gray matter volume in adolescents.

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