Despite the trend of increasing tolerance toward marijuana in the United States, many remain panic-stricken that decriminalization and legalization will make it easier for teenagers to use pot. But binge-drinking is the real concern, say researchers.
New Research Shows Binge-Drinking Way More Dangerous for Teens
The Center for Disease Control reports that more than 90 percent of alcoholic drinks consumed by people between the ages of 12 and 20 are guzzled during binge-drinking sessions.
Binge-drinking, in addition to the immediate risks posed, like alcohol poisoning or automobile accidents, also has long-term consequences for teens.
A study from Duke University finds that the still-developing brains of adolescents who periodically binge-drink are negatively affected well into adulthood.
The study found that teenage binge-drinking causes lasting damage to the hippocampus, “where memory and learning are controlled.”
At the cellular level, researchers examined “long-term potentiation (LTP),” a mechanism for “the strengthening of brain synapses as they are used to learn new tasks or conjure memories.”
The scientists had hypothesized that LTP would be stunted in the adult rats. They were surprised to learn that the process was, instead, “hyperactive” in the formerly boozy rats.
The consequences are obviously severe, causing adult brains to be basically more “immature” than they otherwise would be.
Studies Show Marijuana Use is Less Harmful for Teens than Binge-Drinking
By contrast, similar consequences have not been observed among teens who use marijuana.
A 2012 study conducted by the University of California San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that after a year and a half, kids who drank five or more alcoholic beverages twice a week had lost white brain matter…meaning that they could have impaired memory, attention, and decision-making into adulthood.
The pot-smoking kids in the study, however, suffered no such loss. More recently, two 2015 studies — one of which was the largest of its kind ever — found “no evidence for the causal influence of cannabis exposure” on teen brain damage, and debunks long-standing claims about teen marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia.