Our latest podcast compared the costs of marijuana use to the costs of alcohol use. A new study in the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience argues that casual use of marijuana affects the developing brain. Jason Koebler, writing for Vice, summarizes the findings:
High-resolution MRI scans of the brains of adults between the ages of 18-25 who reported smoking weed at least once a week were structurally different than a control group: They showed greater grey matter density in the left amygdala, an area of the brain associated with addiction and showed alterations in the hypothalamus and subcallosal cortex. The study also notes that marijuana use “may be associated with a disruption of neural organization.” The more weed a person reported smoking, the more altered their brain appeared, according to the Northwestern University and Harvard Medical School study, which was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The finding already has the study’s authors calling for states to reconsider legalizing the drug. Hans Breiter, the lead author, said he’s “developed a severe worry about whether we should be allowing anybody under age 30 to use pot unless they have a terminal illness and need it for pain.
(HT: The Daily Dish)
Imagine a fantasy world that’s exactly as the world is today except that two things are missing: alcohol and marijuana. And then imagine that tomorrow, both of them are discovered. What happens now? How are each of them used – and, perhaps more importantly, regulated? How would we weigh the relative benefits and costs of alcohol versus marijuana?
That’s the topic of our latest podcast, “What’s More Dangerous: Marijuana or Alcohol?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) Read More »
Our latest podcast is called “It’s Fun to Smoke Marijuana.” (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) In it, a psychology professor argues that the brain’s greatest attribute is knowing what other people are thinking. And that a Queen song, played backwards, can improve your mind-reading skills.
In the episode, Stephen Dubner talks to Nicholas Epley. Here’s how Epley introduces himself:
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EPLEY: I’m a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago. I’m in the Booth School of Business, and I study mind-reading.
I am not sure how else to explain this e-mail, received from a reader whose name I shall withhold:
So there is this weird thing going on at CVS that I have to at least make record of, maybe talk about. I am constantly lured there and I walk the wiles, grab a few things, and the bill ALWAYS adds up to whatever amount of money I have in my pocket. If I have $54.32, on three occasions the total added up to exactly the amount I had, and on two other occasions it was within a dollar of being the exact amount. It’s like if I played roulette and always guessed right. Now I can’t talk about it, and these fucks know that, so they do it every time I go to CVS. I boycotted CVS but they lure me there anytime I am even close there. I swore myself to secrecy but the problem is I don’t have a lot of friends and under a condition of secrecy, I get lured to CVS constantly.
One of our very first Freakonomics Radio podcasts focused on brain trauma among NFL players. Writing for Vice, David Bienenstock argues that NFL players might benefit hugely from medical marijuana. He points to an editorial in the Washington Post earlier this year, describing research indicating that marijuana could protect player’s brains from the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries:
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As it turns out, recent studies are starting to contradict the notion that marijuana kills brain cells. Last year, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel gave low doses of THC, one of marijuana’s primary cannabinoids, to mice either before or after exposing them to brain trauma. They found that THC produced heightened amounts of chemicals in the brain that actually protected cells. Weeks later, the mice performed better on learning and memory tests, compared with a control group. The researchers concluded that THC could prevent long-term damage associated with brain injuries. Though preliminary, this is just one of many promising studies exploring marijuana’s benefits for the brain.
In our most recent podcast, “Are We Ready to Legalize Drugs? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions,” we discussed drug legalization. Here’s what Steve Levitt had to say on the benefits of legalizing marijuana, as compared to crack cocaine:
So crack cocaine is a really devilish drug because it gives you such an intense high for such a short period of time that your desire is just to get high over and over and over. It’s highly addictive, and it’s really hard to function when you’re a crack addict. But what it makes me think is that this experimentation we’re doing now with policy towards drugs like marijuana, and potentially it would be expanded over time is a good idea. Because I think when it comes to marijuana, the social costs of the prohibition of marijuana are just really low. Very few people in the United States are being killed over marijuana. The gangs are not making their money off marijuana. Marijuana in some very real sense is too cheap. It’s too easy to grow yourself and so it isn’t the source of all of the ills that come with prohibition. And so, so the gains of legalizing marijuana for society are much smaller than the gains would be to legalizing cocaine if you could control how the outcome came.
But does marijuana legalization really harm anyone? Like poor minorities, for example? Michael Kinsley, Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum recently debated that question, as well as legalization in general, for Bloggingheads TV. In an accompanying blog post, Sullivan points to Reihan Salam‘s recent post on the subject: Read More »
From a reader named Ben Doty:
Quick question that may benefit from an economist’s perspective, possibly relating to complimentary goods, signaling, expertise, and education:
If you walk into a surf shop and the stench of marijuana nearly knocks you over, does that make you more or less likely to purchase surfing lessons there?
What do you say, readers? I have never been in a surf shop myself; I have, however, been in the pro shop at various golf courses and I can tell you that I have never once smelled marijuana there.