Marijuana Plus Alcohol Kills Brain Cells

Pot Plus Alcohol Kills Young Rats Brain Cells

A mix of THC, the main mood changing drug in marijuana / cannabis, and mildly intoxicating doses of alcohol caused widespread nerve cell death in the brains of young rats, a German study finds.

Rats were used as they have similar biology to humans. Thus, this finding may also occur in people who drink and use marijuana.

Researchers in Berlin, administered THC, a synthetic form of THC, alcohol, an anticonvulsant, and a sedative to rats between one and 14 days old.

A previous study by the same team found that ethanol and drugs such as sedatives, anesthetics and anticonvulsants caused extensive nerve cell death in the brains of young rodents. The new study was conducted to determine if THC caused similar harm.

The researchers found that THC and synthetic THC did not cause nerve cell death when administered alone. But, did cause cell death when given with mildly intoxicating amounts of alcohol. The combined effect increased according to the dose of THC and was strongest when the rats were seven days old.

More studies are needed to examine how THC boosts alcohol’s harmful effects on the developing brain, the researchers said.

  • The German group noted that marijuana is among the most commonly used illicit drugs by women during their childbearing years. There’s growing concern that use of marijuana, either alone or in combination with other drugs, during pregnancy may harm fetal brain development.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology, from a news release, April 2008

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