Close-up of a cannabis leaf held by hand. Close-up of a cannabis leaf held by hand.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?

Weed or like people call it Marijuana is among the most commonly used drugs in the world, so much so that it is even legal in lots of places.

The legality is however provided on the basis that it also has medicinal effects. It is believed that chronic consumption of weed leads to some sort of irregularity in the proper working of the nervous system and the brain.

Although it is still being debated whether it kills brain cells or not, let us understand what are the effects of the consumption of weed on humans.

1. Is Marijuana Addictive?

Naturally, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called endocannabinoids.

These have various functions in your body, specifically the brain and the nervous system. Weed contains cannabinoids which interact with these chemicals due to similar molecular structures.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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Marijuana consumption leads to the accumulation of cannabinoid neurotransmitters, which is what leads to the addiction-building process because the brain adapts to the heavy usage of marijuana which leads to reduced production of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

The dependence also has a medical term known as marijuana use disorder. Although not all users develop a disorder but almost 30% of those who consume develop some extent of it.

When you stop using you can experience various symptoms like mood and sleep difficulties, irritability, cravings, restlessness, reduced appetite, and other problems.

2. Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Weed

Weed affects a lot more of your body and not just your brain.

Some of the short-term effects are confusion, fatigue, anxiety, panic, poor coordination, inability to learn, impaired decision-making, and memory disruption.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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Some people might even have migraines or hallucinations. A long and continuous use can also increase the chances of psychosis.

One of the most dangerous after-effects or long-term effects of weed is the ill effects on the brain. Another risk is that marijuana can lead to relapse into other drugs or substances.

3. Medicinal Effects of Weed

Marijuana although wrong when abused for wrong purposes but otherwise, has a lot of positive impacts also which is why it is also used for medicinal purposes also.

Some of the effects are chronic pain relief, seizure regulation, treatment of glaucoma, slowing the development of Alzheimer, relieving symptoms of ADD and ADHD even PTSD.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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4. How is Weed Compared to Nicotine and Alcohol?

Any two drugs or substances never have the exact same results or consequences on the human body.

Alcohol and nicotine are also different compared to weed and one thing that is differentiating is the fact that alcohol and nicotine are both neurotoxins meaning that they are proven to kill brain cells, which is not yet proven for marijuana.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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One thing that stands common for all three is how they affect adolescents. The chronic and long-term use of marijuana, alcohol, or nicotine leads to negative cognitive outcomes.

5. Does the Age of the Marijuana User Makes any Difference?

5.1. Adolescents

There has been a lot of research about how marijuana affects adolescent brain cells, and it has been found that the negative effects of marijuana on the adolescent brain are the risk of permanent memory and attention deficits.

It can also lead to brain changes structurally and abnormal neural functioning and heavy marijuana use can also trigger specific mental health disorders and lead to increased substance abuse.

Everyday consumption can cause problems with regular cognitive function and even decreased IQ.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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5.2. Adults

There is not extensive research on this and the effects are not very clear, but we can clearly assume that the brain structure may alter due to long-term marijuana use. This is just an assumption though without any distinctive proof.

According to studies it has been found that the users of marijuana have a smaller hippocampus, the part of the human brain associated with memory, and the chronic use of marijuana may kill brain cells in the hippocampus is what some studies conclude.

6. Edibles vs Smoking

Although the conventional way of weed consumption was smoking eventually people started becoming creative about it and edibles were introduced.

Cookies, brownies, and a lot of other things are now easily available for consumption and the misconception that a lot of people have is that the consumption of edibles as compared to smoking is less harmful to the respiratory system.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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The truth is totally the other way around because weed edibles are more concentrated and contain more THC in one serving as compared to what you would get by just a puff from your pipe.

They actually fail to understand the difference between whole weed buds and these.

Another difference that is quite important to consider is the fact that edibles kick in after some time and then suddenly they hit very strong, and they also last longer in your system.

So, you do not really know when are you completely in a safe zone for any activity like driving or working in general.

The way of entering your brain is different when you smoke and when you consume an edible. Edibles use a different route to get into your bloodstream, here your liver converts the THC into a more potent form of THC which impacts your brain more than smoking.

Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
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The assumption that they do not impact the respiratory system much is that they don’t interfere with getting much oxygen. But they are much more strong and affect your brain a lot more than smoking.

7. Final Thoughts

Conclusively you can not say that marijuana kills brain cells, it has a lot of ill effects on your brain structure-wise and function-wise.

It can impact memory and IQ, and also affect your cognitive and neural functions. The earlier you start, the higher the scope of getting addicted and the higher the consumption amount.

The form of consumption does make a difference if it’s a brownie or a cigarette but that does not mean one has an impact and the other doesn’t. It’s just a matter of the extent.

Last Updated on December 22, 2023 by suchi


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. The article provided a balanced view on the effects of weed on the brain. It not only focussed on the negative but also the positive aspects of the weed. I appreciate the scientific approach to this topic.

  2. Weed’s impact on brain cells is debated, with chronic use affecting neurotransmitters and causing dependence. Short-term effects include memory issues and anxiety, while long-term use may contribute to psychosis and alter brain structure. Marijuana has medicinal benefits, but its cognitive impact, especially on adolescents, raises concerns. Consumption methods, like edibles versus smoking, add complexity to the discussion.

  3. Well articulated! This article encourages a thoughtful and evidence-based approach to the topic. It’s a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the impact of cannabis on brain health.

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