Everyone knows that drugs and alcohol take a hard toll on your body, wreaking havoc on your liver, heart, pancreas, and immune system, not to mention making it infinitely harder to exercise or get a good night of sleep. While the Mediterranean diet claims that having a glass of red wine per day is good for the heart and removes toxins from the brain, other studies suggest that having as little as one drink a day can shorten your lifespan. Now, a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has revealed that marijuana and alcohol can have more of a negative impact on the brain than previously believed.
Daniel G. Amen is a celebrity doctor, best-selling author, and founder of Amen Clinics, an organization that focuses on the treatment of mood and behavior disorders. (It should be noted that Amen Clinics are not without controversy. According to a Washington Post report, many of Amen’s peers find his work to be “no more than myth and poppycock.”) In what is thought to be the largest brain imaging study ever conducted, Amen and his colleagues analyzed 62,454 brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans of more than 30,000 people aged nine months to 105 years old in order to identify the factors that contribute most to brain aging.
It should be no surprise that certain brain disorders—like schizophrenia, ADD, and bipolar disorder—were found to contribute to the deterioration of the brain. What was more unexpected was that alcohol consumption and marijuana use were revealed to accelerate brain aging by 0.6 years and 2.8 years, respectively.
Amen believes the findings regarding cannabis use are especially significant, given that there’s been a push in recent years to legalize the substance, as well a movement to have it viewed as a harmless way to unwind. “Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain,” Amen said in a press release. “Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging. The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it.”
As of now, eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use: Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, Maine, and Massachusetts. Another 22 states have laws broadly allowing for marijuana use by providing limited access under certain circumstances. And a recent Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, which is a record high for the country.
The reason that so many people think that marijuana is harmless is mostly due to the overwhelming amount of research pointing suggesting that the stuff is, on the whole, one of the least harmful drugs available. However, this study indicates that its effects on the brain may be more severe than previously believed.
If you’re looking for a pleasurable way to relax that will actually boost your brain health and longevity, check out The One Exercise Every Older Person Should Do.
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