Research & Resources

Alcohol and Cannabis Use and the Developing Brain

This literature review provides an overview of research focused on understanding how alcohol and cannabis affect the developing brain. Existing studies suggest heavy alcohol and cannabis use during adolescence are related to small-to-moderate disruptions in brain structure and function, as well as neurocognitive impairment. The effects of alcohol use include widespread decreases in gray matter volume and cortical thickness across time; slowed white matter growth and poorer integrity; disrupted network efficiency; and poorer impulse and attentional control, learning, memory, visuospatial processing, and psychomotor speed. Overall, co-use findings suggest more pronounced effects related to alcohol use than to cannabis use. 

This paper, “Alcohol and Cannabis Use and the Developing Brain,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and published in the journal Alcohol research: Current reviews.

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