Cannabis May Lessen Effects of Binge Drinking

Coffee, over-the-counter drugs and cold showers are hangover cures of the past — but experts say smoking cannabis may become the newest remedy for binge-drinking uni students.

A University of California, San Diego study suggests cannabis may protect the brain from some of the damage caused by binge drinking, though its results face some contention from experts.

James Strauss, a senior lecturer in anatomy and physiology at Penn State, said the idea that cannabis is safer than alcohol is a “real possibility.” In reality, he said, the study’s most important findings were that the best way to protect the brain from damage is to not smoke or binge drink.

The study compared brain matter between three groups of 16- to 19-year-olds: one group of binge drinkers, one group of binge drinkers and cannabis smokers, and a group with little exposure to either alcohol or drugs. Binge drinkers were defined in the study as a woman who consumed four or more drinks in one sitting and a man who consumed five or more. study found while binge drinking negatively affected all eight regions of the brain, smoking weed and binge drinking only degraded three areas.

Because the study focused on the effects of the substances on only white brain matter, the effects of cannabis may be more harmful to other parts of the brain than binge drinking, Strauss said.

Strauss said he is wary of the study because researchers used a small sample group with individuals of various health backgrounds, and didn’t follow the individuals throughout their lives.

But Bruce Mirkin, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, thinks smoking cannabis isn’t as dangerous as many scientists think.

“Cannabis is absolutely safer than alcohol,” he said.

Mirkin hopes the results of the study will affect college campus policy. Placing stricter regulations on weed usage than on alcohol usage is inappropriate, because alcohol is “clearly more dangerous” and the legal issues that surround cannabis will steer students toward “more dangerous substances,” he said.

Jamie Cousins of sophomore-nutrition said the results of the study will not drastically affect Penn State or college students — “If they’re already smoking, they’ll keep smoking,” he said.

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