Alcohol and Marijuana Impact Adolescent White Matter

Alcohol and Marijuana Impact Adolescent White Matter

It is during adolescence that experts believe the brain matures, creating the foundation for self control. Researchers have recently discovered that alcohol and marijuana use plays a significant role in how the brain develops during those teen years.

According to a recent medical article, researchers found differences between the brains of teens who use alcohol and marijuana and those who don’t, or aren’t using often. They particularly found evidence that suggests disorganization within a section of the brain called “white matter” This part of the brain is responsible for communicating effectively throughout regions of the brain. Medical professionals have labeled white matter as the information highway of the brain. If this area of the brain becomes compromised it can impact a person’s cognitive performances and processing including memory, decision-making and attention.

A recent study, which will be published by the researchers from the University of California-San Diego, alcohol and marijuana use appear to directly impact the white-matter integrity among teens. Because the brain is still in developing stages, the affects of the alcohol and marijuana are negatively altering the cellular communication inside the brain. Ultimately it prevents the growth of healthy new cells and can cause inflammation.

For nearly two years, the team followed 92 high school students and logged their behavior. Half of the young adults, between the ages of 16 and 20 years old, abstained from marijuana and alcohol while the others didn’t. Both groups were evaluated and tested before, during and after the trial period. Their results were what they expected to find.

Researchers have been able to establish that the adolescent brain has an obvious vulnerability to alcohol and marijuana, which targets white matter, and therefore diminishes the relationship between regions of the brain that control the impulse behavior. It clearly illustrates that those teens who use both drugs heavily engage in more risky behavior.

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