Smoking cannabis ages the brain by an average of nearly three years, according to new research.
Marijuana was found to ramp up brain aging by 2.8 years making it worse for your mind than bipolar disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Schizophrenics’ brains were found to age by an even greater average of four years.
Boozing was also shown to age the organ by 0.6 years, the research adds.
Brain aging is defined as reduced blood flow through the organ.
Lead study author Dr. Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics, said: “The cannabis abuse finding was especially important, as our culture is starting to see marijuana as an innocuous substance. This study should give us pause about it.”
Reduced brain blood flow has previously been linked to strokes and dementia.
The researchers analyzed 62,454 brains scans from 31,227 people.
Scans were collected during both rest and concentration and taken from people aged between nine months and 105 years old to determine factors that contribute to brain aging.
Researchers analyzed the blood flow through 128 regions of each brain to determine how old they thought the individual was.
Once they learned the person’s actual age, they were able to measure the rate of accelerated aging.
Dr. George Perry, from the University of Texas, San Antonio, commented on the research saying: “This is one of the first population-based imaging studies, and these large studies are essential to answer how to maintain brain structure and function during aging.”
The results also suggest bipolar disorder accelerates brain aging by 1.6 years, with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) speeding it up by 1.4 years.
No link was found between depression and brain aging.
Amen added: “Based on one of the largest brain imaging studies ever done, we can now track common disorders and behaviors that prematurely age the brain.
“Better treatment of these disorders can slow or even halt the process of brain aging.”
Study author Sachit Egan, from Google, a partner in the study, added: “The results indicate that we can predict an individual’s age based on patterns of cerebral blood flow.”
“Additionally, groundwork has been laid to further explore how common psychiatric disorders can influence healthy patterns of cerebral blood flow.”