BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — As more states look to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, two researchers at Indiana University are looking at the drug’s effects on the brain.
“People have very strong opinions,” said Professor Brian O’Donnell of Indiana University’s School of Psychology and Brain Sciences. “There are people who feel like marijuana is this deadly drug that causes brain damage. And other people feel its highly therapeutic — that it can cure PTSD, for example. We’re looking for the evidence.”
“Unfortunately we don’t know a lot about what cannabis does to our brains,” said Associate Professor Sharlene Newman who also directs the school’s imaging facility.
The researchers are recruiting 90 people for the study: 30 who’ve never used marijuana, 30 who used to use but don’t anymore, and 30 current users.
Utilizing brain scans from an MRI, researchers will try to answer a number of questions including how the use of marijuana might alter the course of brain development in adolescence and early adulthood, how much is too much for particular age groups, and whether stopping use allows for recovery.
“When you stop smoking, does everything go back to normal or are these changes permenant? These are the kinds of questions that we’re addressing,” said Newman.
The study is being funded by a $275,000 federal grant from the National Institutes of Health. Newman and O’Donnell said they hope to have their findings in about a year and a half.
Marijuana is now legalized for adult use in Colorado, Washington state, Alaska and Oregon. Twenty-three states now have laws allowing medical marijuana.
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