Surprisingly, with all the studies out there relating to drug abuse and human behavior, no one really knows for sure how marijuana affects the developing brain. While some people insist that marijuana is a harmless drug whose medical benefits far outweigh any negative side effects, there is not enough data to say for sure how dangerous or harmless it really is. Now that more and more states have voted to legalize marijuana in some fashion or another, researchers are anxious to study the effects of the drug on developing brains.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is planning to head a study that compares the developing brain of an adolescent who does not consume marijuana over time to the developing brain in an adolescent who uses marijuana. Researchers want to know what effects marijuana has on the developing brain. Along with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Child Health and Development, the groups will fund a large scale research study to hopefully provide answers to questions that have gone unanswered for a long time.
The study will recruit 10,000 adolescents and follow them for at least ten years. Every two years, the young people will receive a brain imaging scan as well as an interview focusing on their drug use. Researchers intend to recruit study participants from lower income families and families with known drug addicts.
Researchers are aware that the biggest hurdle in the study will be to gain the trust of the participants. Accurate, honest answers are the only way the study will be valid. Additionally, the study proves to be extremely expensive. It is projected that the study will cost at least $300 million.
Another question that researchers have to answer is how they are going to maintain the same tools throughout the ten years. Because advancements in technology are being made so quickly, it is likely that whatever imaging tool the study employs will no longer be relevant towards the end of the study.
The medical community is anxious to see the results of the study because it is important to more specifically understand the effects of marijuana on the growing brain.