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Cannabis and Tobacco Co-Use and the Developing Brain

Institution: University of California, San Diego
Investigator(s): Joanna Jacobus, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2019 (Cycle 28) Grant #: 28IR-0043 Award: $928,325
Subject Area: Neuroscience of Nicotine Addiction and Treatment
Award Type: High Impact Research Project Award

Initial Award Abstract

Studies suggest cannabis use and nicotine and tobacco products (NTP) negatively impact the developing brain.  Despite evidence that regular use of both of these substances may result in worse performance on tests of mental processes (e.g., memory) and increased risk of mental health problems and addiction, there is little research on how using both of these substances may change the adolescent brain and leave some youth vulnerable to poorer physical and mental wellness. The aims of the proposed research are to recruit a large sample of adolescents (N=200) ages 16-22 who report using both cannabis and NTP, cannabis only, NTP only, and minimal to no use of either substance to compare: 1) differences in brain health 2) differences in memory, attention, and concentration, and 3) differences in mood, anxiety, and problems in their life. Adolescents have high peak use rates of NTP and as a result are specifically targeted by the tobacco industry. Similarly, as more states legalize cannabis use, more teens may use NTP and cannabis together. Yet, there is no research examining how use of these two substances together may change the adolescent brain. This research will help inform health care providers working with adolescents, as well as public health campaigns, prevention programs, and law makers.