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Study finds consistent marijuana use can lead to accelerated brain aging

A study showed cannabis use disorder led to an average of three years of accelerated brain aging.

(WTHR) — A large study of brain scans has yielded surprising results for researchers: cannabis use is one of the leading factors of accelerated brain aging.

The study, published by the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, tested the effects of disorders such as depression, dementia, substance use and anxiety on brain aging. Scientists from Amen Clinics, Google, John's Hopkins University, UCLA and UC San Francisco analyzed more than 60,000 brain scans from more than 30,000 people aging from 9 months old to 105 years old.

The type of brain scans they used, called SPECT, evaluate blood flow in the brain that in reduced in disorders.

Results showed cannabis use was second behind only schizophrenia in premature brain aging.

Schizophrenia showed an average of four years of premature aging, while those who suffer from cannabis use disorder showed an average of almost three years. The National Institutes of Health says people diagnosed with marijuana use disorder must meet at least two of 11 symptoms that analyze craving, withdrawal, lack of control and negative effects on personal and professional responsibilities.

"The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance," said Dr. Daniel G. Amen of Amen Clinics. "This study should give us pause about it.”

Bipolar disorder showed an average of 1.6 years accelerated aging, ADHD showed 1.4 years, and alcohol abuse showed .6 years.

To researchers' surprise, participants with depression did not show accelerating brain aging.

For more findings and the complete methods of this study, click here.