It’s a common stereotype that people who smoke weed are a bit foggy-headed and missing a few brain cells.
But a study from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that alcohol is much more damaging to your brain than marijuana. In fact, the study — which was published in the journal Addiction — suggests that weed use doesn’t seem to alter the structure of a person’s brain at all.
Kent Hutchison, a co-author of the study, said he wanted to examine what effect pot has on a person’s brain because there isn’t a conclusive answer to the question.
“When you look at these studies going back years, you see that one study will report that marijuana use is related to a reduction in the volume of the hippocampus,” he said. “The next study then comes around, and they say that marijuana use is related to changes in the cerebellum.
“The point is that there’s no consistency across all of these studies in terms of the actual brain structures.”
For the study, researchers wanted to see the relationship between alcohol and marijuana use and the volume of gray and white matter in a person’s brain. Both gray and white matter are important for a healthy and functioning brain.
The study involved 853 people ages 18 to 55 and 439 teenagers. They had “a range of alcohol and cannabis use,” the researchers wrote.
It was found that among those who drank alcohol, adults — and to a lesser extent, teens — had a reduction in gray matter volume. The study found that white matter was affected in adults, but not teenagers, who drank. These effects were especially seen in adults with a history of drinking for years, according to Medical News Today.
But among marijuana users (defined as those who had smoked in the past 30 days), there was no relationship between getting high and the structure of the brain.
Of course, some studies have suggested that marijuana can be harmful to a person’s psychological well-being — and especially for those with developing brains. According to the American Psychiatric Association, those who consume marijuana as an adolescent have higher school dropout rates, greater unemployment and lower life satisfaction.
Another study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging found that a high intake of marijuana is associated with psychosis, depression and schizophrenia.