Developing Brains: Alcohol Worse than Marijuana


( -- It appears that when it comes to teen brain development, parents should be more worried about alcohol abuse than marijuana abuse. Two recent studies have been published showing that alcohol -- a legal substance (though not legal for teens in the U.S.) -- is considered more dangerous than marijuana, which is illegal in many countries.

One study has been published in the U.S., in the journal Clinical EEG and neuroscience: official journal of the EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society (ENCS), and shows that has a stronger effect on than . The other is a study published in the Lancet, offering the results of substance classification by a number of U.K. professionals, purporting that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana to individuals and to society.

The U.S. study was undertaken by Squeglia, Jacobus and Tapert in a San Diego State University/University of California San Diego joint doctoral program. The study looks at teen for its uniqueness, as well as for the effects that substance abuse has on the brain during this time. Because alcohol and marijuana are commonly used by high school students, it is little surprise that the study is interested in the brain abnormalities stemming from abuse of these substances.

When the brain abnormalities were measured -- seen in terms of brain functioning and structure, cognitive tasks and quality of white matter -- it appeared as though alcohol had a great effect than marijuana. Heavy drinking was defined 20 drinks per month, and the abnormalities were detectable. In heavy marijuana users, abnormalities existed, but not to the same degree as those seen in alcohol abusers.

Findings from the U.S. study, showing that alcohol use in teens causes more irregular than marijuana, would seem to square with efforts in the U.K. to encourage new drug classification. In the Lancet, David Nutt at , along with his colleagues, asked psychologists and scientifically or medically trained police to rank different substances according to how harmful they are. The study purports that experts rank alcohol (and tobacco) as more harmful than marijuana. In a list of 20 substances, alcohol came in at number five, tobacco came in at number nine, and marijuana/cannabis came in at number eleven.

These studies are likely to add fuel to movements in both the U.S. and the U.K. to re-classify marijuana. Supporters of fewer restrictions on marijuana will undoubtedly point to scientific studies that show we already legalize less dangerous substances.

© 2009

Citation: Developing Brains: Alcohol Worse than Marijuana (2009, March 26) retrieved 20 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Mar 26, 2009
So politicians must be drunks considering they have to be brain dead to oppose the legalization of marijuana.

I start to think we're making progress but then I read a story about MD State Troopers busting down doors, killing family pets and leaving the families zip tied on the floor while they ransack the household only to find marijuana dust.

Mar 26, 2009
It's a good thing than that marijuana is illegal. In Canada it's really hard for minors to get booze without ID. It may even cost them more as nobody is bootlegging cheaper than retail. Marijuana on the other hand is really easy to find, you don't need ID, and is cheaper than booze. And yet a large part of the population still believe the approach being taken is having a really positive and measurable effect.

Mar 26, 2009
You seem to be suggesting that the "virtual" legalization of marijuana in Canada is having an adverse effect upon you... Care to elaborate?

Mar 27, 2009
If/when it becomes legalized, I hope governments don't slap an exorbitant 'sin tax' upon it.. but I'm willing to bet that many will.

Mar 27, 2009
Yeah, they will, but Im sure it will still be cheaper than what people are used to paying, and I bet theyll pay the tax happily just because they know their government is finally getting real. Hell, I paid my taxes this year without cursing the government just because I have hope in Obama!

Mar 27, 2009
Time to see the light at the end of one helluva dark tunnel of prohibition!

Mar 28, 2009
Small article correction, marijuana is illegal in ALL countries. Some are simply more tolerant of infractions.

Incorrect. Marijuana is legal FOR CONTROLLED CONSUMPTION in Holland. However distribution and possession for distribution are incriminated but tolerated in some cases.

Mar 29, 2009

Possession and distribution being criminal mean you can't own it or sell it. Sounds illegal to me.

Marijuana for controlled consumption, means medical use. Medical use is not officially supported in Holland. Popular prescription doesn't mean legalization, especially when there is no legal distribution. Marijuana is as legal in Holland as it is in Southern California, which is to say, not at all.

It is legal, sort of.. Otherwise there wouldn't be a coffeeshop 2 blocks away from me. Possession is legal and so is distribution by coffeeshops, but it isn't very clear where the coffeeshops get their goods from. There is only 1 large legal plantation, but they only grow marihuana for medical use which is allowed if your doctor prescribes it.

To clear some things up:
Using marihuana is allowed, with the exception of public places.
One person can buy 5 grammes of marihuana per coffeeshop every day.
They allow you to have up to 5 cannabis plants at home.

Mar 30, 2009
Small article correction, marijuana is illegal in ALL countries. Some are simply more tolerant of infractions.

Incorrect. Marijuana is legal FOR CONTROLLED CONSUMPTION in Holland. However distribution and possession for distribution are incriminated but tolerated in some cases.

Possession and distribution

Not possession and distribution, but possession *for* distribution. Possession for personal use is legal, meaning the government is the only one allowed to deal. I can't say if that's actually going on or if regular growers are the main suppliers and that aspect of the law is not being enforced.

Apr 11, 2009
so does drinking lots of sugar, I think it is the sugar involved in the process to sweeten the result. I would like to see a better test done on high sugar beers vs. low sugar beers. No one needs to drink lots of sugar since it causes diabetes. This is not a good article.

Apr 18, 2009
getgoa, the only reason you think this article is no good is that 1) you do not agree with it and 2)is stating alcohol, which comes in other forms than beer,causes more brain developmental problems than marijuana 3) do you even know WHY it was made illegal in the states....narrow minded f...s like you let so many other uses that have been used for thousands of years get pushed away

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more