This article was originally published on The Fresh Toast and appears here with permission.
Cannabis has long been associated with brain damage, but this connection is complex, not wholly understood, and even exaggerated.
There are plenty of myths surrounding cannabis. From being a gateway drug to making people lazy, cannabis has been accredited with a lot of behaviors. Does smoking cannabis kill your brain cells? Is it a myth weed makes you dumber or is this just a prohibition-era misbelief?
Despite how widespread this stereotype is, there’s little evidence out there to support or discredit this belief. Many think this started with the infamous fried egg commercial, which started airing in the ’80s and depicted a fried egg as the encapsulation of your brain on drugs. While there are terrible drugs, the moderate use of cannabis does not fry your brain.
When it comes to scientific evidence, there is one study that shows a connection between a smaller hippocampus and chronic cannabis use. The hippocampus, important for memory and learning, isn’t directly related to brain cells but shows a negative connection between regular cannabis use and an impaired brain.
Another study, conducted over a period of 38 years, linked cannabis use with cognitive decline. It showed that adolescents who heavily used cannabis and continued to do so as adults lost six to eight IQ points by the time they reached midlife. Those who used heavily and who quit later on in their lives didn’t regain lost IQ points. On the other hand, adults who used cannabis heavily didn’t lose any IQ points.
Other studies show the opposite effect. A study conducted on mice shows that low dosages of THC can reverse age-related cognitive impairments. This link was found in another study conducted on humans with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, which showed that THC and CBD could be therapeutic.
There’s no clear answer on cannabis and brain cells. While there have been negative associations between heavy cannabis use and the brain, moderate cannabis use has been associated with therapeutic effects.
In order to consume cannabis in a way that’s smart and positive for your health, moderation is key. Instead of consuming cannabis on a daily basis, it might be better for your health and enjoyment to treat cannabis as something that’s pleasurable instead of a habit.