Cannabis use during adolescence is associated with altered brain development, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry. The new research represents the largest longitudinal neuroimaging study of cannabis use to date.
Although some studies have found evidence that adolescents who use cannabis tend to have reduced cortical thickness in frontal brain regions, the cross-sectional nature of past research has left it unclear whether these differences in brain structure are a consequence of the drug itself.
“Despite increasing trends in cannabis legalization, there have been surprisingly few longitudinal imaging studies on this topic. Most imaging studies of cannabis use have been relatively small in sample size and cross-sectional in nature,” said study author Matthew D. Albaugh, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont.