You may have heard in the past that smoking cannabis can kill your brain cells. Since Reagan, propaganda has tried to convince people that permanent brain damage was an inevitable result from marijuana usage. Government officials have no begun to admit that pot doesn’t kill brain cells.
Where did this rumor start?
This myth came from old experiments done on animals. Even in animals actual cell death did not occur after animals were exposed to high doses of marijuana, cell structures just changed. Dr. Robert G. Heath did a study on moneys which supposedly found that three monkeys had been brain damaged by cannabis. However, this work was never replicated making it unreliable in the scientific community. Furthermore, the monkeys were force-fed 30 joints worth of marijuana per day. The brain damage reported in the autopsies of the monkeys may have been caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain when being force fed smoke.
What are the facts?
The findings of the above study were challenged by Dr. William Slikker of the National Center for Toxicological Research and Charles Rebert of SRI international. Both Doctors attempted to replicate the notorious monkey study without success. Instead, they found no change in the brain structure of monkeys that were given daily doses of marijuana for a whole year.
Research on humans has concluded that brain damage is unlikely from daily use. Only users who started using marijuana before the age of 17 saw noticeable changes in brain matter volume. Overall, brain volumes remained the same in those studied.
A study on chronic marijuana users found that only 38 out of 1000 people saw a drop in IQ. In the few people who saw a decrease in IQ it was only about an 8 point drop from age 18 to 38. These people were also using more marijuana for a longer duration of time than the average user.
Contrastingly, there has been research showing that cannabinoids have the ability to protect brain cells from damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research would need to be done to make any definitive claims.
A 2005 study found that a synthetic form of THC could increase the growth of new brain cells. More recent research on marijuana contradicts the findings of Dr. Robert G. Heath and others who have claimed that marijuana has a negative impact on brain health.
The fear of the alleged harms of marijuana became widespread after the results of isolated studies were pushed onto the public. These results have failed to be replicated and there has been little evidence suggesting that the active ingredients in cannabis at appropriate doses can have neurotoxic effects. So as long as you’re not being force fed 30 joints a day your overall brain health should remain the same. More research needs to be done on marijuana’s effect on human brain cells. Hopefully, the DEA’s decision to lift barriers on marijuana research will lead to more information on the plants impact on the central nervous system.