To Your Health
January, 2019 (Vol. 13, Issue 01)
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Marijuana or Alcohol: Which Is Worse for Your Child?

By Editorial Staff

We know, we know: On the one hand, this is a question that doesn't merit an answer, because for the vast majority of parents (we're accounting for a few uninformed outliers), marijuana and alcohol are taboo for all children until they reach adulthood.

That's the vision; now here's the reality: Thirty-three percent U.S. high-school students have tried alcohol at least once and 39 percent have tried marijuana, according to national statistics.

Shocking? Not if you really think about it, unfortunately. But now our question becomes more relevant, because if children – yes, perhaps even your child – is experimenting with alcohol and/or marijuana, we're sure you want to know which is the worse offense (if there is a worse offense) in terms of their health, specifically their brain health. Now here's the answer, according to a four-year study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Based on annual usage reports from nearly 4,000 teens and the results of computer-based cognitive tests, the adolescent brain is negatively impacted by regular marijuana use to a greater extent than alcohol use. Marijuana use has a long-term impact on cognitive abilities, particularly recall and short-term memory, perceptual reasoning and inhibition; even worse, these deficits remain in effect even after adolescents stopped marijuana use.

Now that we've answered that question, here's another one: Is your child experimenting with alcohol and/or marijuana? Before you answer "no," consider the statistics we mentioned above and the results of this study ... and keep in mind that adolescent alcohol and marijuana use are associated with a laundry list of other negative social, academic and health consequences.