Why Occasional Marijuana Use Can Cause Problems
“People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case,” Breiter said in a news release.
Other researchers, not involved in the Massachusetts General study, agreed that finding changes in the brains of casual marijuana users was surprising.
“This study suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy,” said Carl Lupica, Ph.D., of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers, and have largely ignored the brains of casual users.”
The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Is There A Health Downside To Cannabis
When it comes to concerns about cannabis and health, the herbs potential to be habit-forming is one of the biggest concerns for consumers, parents, and health professionals. Though, what cannabis dependence means in terms of long-term brain health is still to be determined.
Some estimates suggest that approximately 9% of cannabis consumers develop dependence, compared with 32% of tobacco smokers and 15% of alcohol consumers.
Research suggests that dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter, may be in part responsible. Alterations in the dopamine system are thought to contribute to behavioral problems.
One 2016 study suggests that cannabis can cause lasting changes to the brains reward system. To measure this, researchers performed brain scans on 59 cannabis consumers who had consumed the herb daily for the past 60 days, or at least 5,000 times in their lives.
The researchers showed the participants images of cannabis and images of other natural products, like their favorite fruit. Brain imaging found that heavy cannabis users were more likely to have a strong pleasure reaction to the cannabis than to the fruit.
The 70 individuals that did not use cannabis had a greater reward response to the fruit. According to study author Dr. Francesca Filbey, this indicates,
How Different Areas Of Your Brain Are Affected By Cannabis Use
The brain isnt just a single, uniform mass of tissue.; On the contrary, different parts of the brain play very different roles in regulating your mental and physical actions, functions, and abilities.; For instance, the rear part of your brain, called the occipital lobe, is responsible for functions related to vision.; If this area of the brain gets injured, the victim can experience vision problems or lose their eyesight altogether.; Of course, that is a somewhat oversimplified explanation, but it gives you a basic idea.
For example, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation found that On days zero, one, and seven, annabis users significantly differed in terms of task performance, including memory-based tasks, when compared to a control group.; However, these effects wore off in a matter of weeks.; The study found that by day 28, the two groups did not differ any longer, and initial 9-THC concentrations were not related to task performance, suggesting that memory impairments in long-term annabis users may not persist
- Hypothalamus The hypothalamus, which is located deep within the brain just above the pituitary gland, controls hunger and appetite.; Marijuana boosts activity in pro-opiomelanocortin cells in your hypothalamus, which, fascinatingly, should suppress appetite.; Of course, we all know that Cannabis use has just the opposite effect.; In fact, this effect is so well-known and pronounced, it even has a name: the munchies.;
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What Pot Really Does To The Teen Brain
How much should we worry?
American parents have been warning teenagers about the dangers of marijuana for about 100 years. Teenagers have been ignoring them for just as long. As I write this, a couple of kids are smoking weed in the woods just yards from my office window and about a block and a half from the local high school. They started in around 9 A.M., just in time for class.
Exaggerating the perils of cannabisthe risks of brain damage, addiction, psychosishas not helped. Any whiff of Reefer Madness hyperbole is perfectly calibrated to trigger an adolescent’s instinctive skepticism for whatever an adult suggests. And the unvarnished facts are scary enough.
We know that being high impairs attention, memory and learning. Some of today’s stronger varieties can make you physically ill and delusional. But whether marijuana can cause lasting damage to the brain is less clear.
A slew of studies in adults have found that nonusers beat chronic weed smokers on tests of attention, memory, motor skills and verbal abilities, but some of this might be the result of lingering traces of cannabis in the body of users or withdrawal effects from abstaining while taking part in a study. In one hopeful finding, a 2012 meta-analysis found that in 13 studies in which participants had laid off weed for 25 days or more, their performance on cognitive tests did not differ significantly from that of nonusers.
How Do Cannabinoids Affect The Brain
Your brain has specific cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoids act on these receptors in different ways .
A simplified version of how cannabinoids affect the brain:
- Activate brain receptors, stimulating the activity of neurotransmitters that communicate with these receptors or;
- Bind to these brain receptors, inhibiting the uptake and increasing the presence of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
This holds true especially in particular parts of the brain where the amount of these cannabinoid receptors is larger than in other parts.
Cannabinoid receptors in the brain are mainly located in:
- Forebrain areas related to higher cognitive functions;
- Forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain areas related to the control of movement, and;
- Hindbrain areas related to the control of motor and sensory functions of the autonomic nervous system.
- protective effects;
- Changes in your psychomotor abilities;
- Changes in your cognitive processes;
- Changes in your perception, mood, and consciousness , and;
- Potential physical changes in your brain in the long term, even when you arent under the influence of any marijuana.
Then theres the distinction that has to be made, between acute and long-term effects of marijuana on the brain.
Long term effects are harder to reverse than short term effects. If marijuana has the potential to alter your brain chemistry in the long term , its important that youre careful with its use.
First, we start with the:
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Getting High Does Not Equal Killing Brain Cells
While frequent, heavy cannabis use can cause a dependency or even addiction in some people, as well as the possible aforementioned symptoms, there is some good news. Using marijuana, no matter the frequency, cannot actually kill brain cells in adult users, says Dr. Sodhi.
Getting high is not synonymous with killing brain cells. The high is an altered state produced by the THC, a mild hallucinogen, he explains. Neither THC or cannabis kills brain cells in the traditional sense, so theres really no need to quantify damage to the brain.
The higher the dosefor example, the more smoke a person inhales and holds in the lungs, or how many THC-laced cookies he or she swallowswill create a more intense high for sure, but as Dr. Sodhi points out, this does not cause increased neurotoxicity in the brain; it just makes a person more high.
What Does Weed Do To The Brain
The Cannabis sativa plant contains hundreds of different chemicals present in varying amounts, depending on the strain and how its grown. The compound that recreational marijuana users care about most is the psychoactive one: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Generally, the higher the THC content, the more potent and potentially intoxicating the weed.;
Because THC is the coveted compound, growers today breed plants to produce a lot of it, says Staci Gruber, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. Nowadays, weed is more than 300 percent stronger than the stuff from the mid-1990s.
THC content has gone through the roof while the amounts of CBD and other constituents that might mitigate the negative effects of THC have gone down, she says. The ratio of THC to other compounds went from 14 to 1 to 100 to 1. This ratio matters because it dictates exactly how pot affects the brain and body.;
Marijuana works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which is composed of chemicals and receptors located all throughout the body. There are endocannabinoid receptors in the liver, intestines, fat, vasculature, and every single cell and organ system, says Daniele Piomelli, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California, Irvine. But the greatest concentration is in the brain.
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Continued Use Of Marijuana
It is estimated that one in 10 persons who try marijuana will develop a dependence upon the drug. Even those who do not develop a physical addiction but continue to abuse the drug regularly can experience permanent damage to their cognitive function; the more frequently a person smokes, the worse those damages are likely to be.
While research is still being done to understand the long-term or permanent effects of marijuana, there are certain known brain damages caused by regular use of the drug.
Immune System: A Cannabis
Does weed weaken your immune system? Unfortunately, the answer is never as simple as the question itself. To find the answer to the question how smoking pot leads to increased white blood cell count? we need to do a quick immunity recap.
The immune system is a multi-organ structure with but one purpose: to fight off threats. These threats can be external or internal .
It fulfills this purpose by producing a spread of defensive mediators that circulate throughout the body. Defensive cells are also called leukocytes, or white blood cells.
Marijuana and immune system have a special connection, as immune system cells tend to react differently, depending on their type.
Furthermore, the immune system has two main forms:
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Effects Of Marijuana On The Size Shape And Density Of The Brain
The researchers found that the more the marijuana users reported consuming, the greater the abnormalities in the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala on the MRI images. The shape and density of both regions of the brain were also different between marijuana users and non-users.
The study revealed that the brains of those who smoked only one joint a day or those who smoked only once a week were changed.
“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” said Hans Breiter, M.D. one of the study’s authors. “Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week,”
Does Marijuana Kill Brain Cells How Weed Affects Cognition
- Does Marijuana Kill Brain Cells? How Weed Affects Cognition
What are the side effects that come to mind when you think of marijuana use? Most likely giggling, slowed speech and movements, and a sudden craving for snacks. This bumbling stereotype might lead you to believe that marijuana makes you dumber, but the scientific consensus seems to be that marijuana does not kill brain cells. This doesnt mean that marijuana is harmless, however.;
While weed doesnt directly result in the death of the neurons the way that stress, head trauma, or other types of substances can, it can still go on to cause significantand long-lastingdamage. This brain damage can lead to permanent side effects such as impaired memory, mental illness, and in the case of adolescents and their still-developing brains, a lower IQ.;
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In Some People Weed Could Increase The Risk Of Depression
Scientists can’t say for sure whether marijuana causes depression or depressed people are simply more likely to smoke. But one study from the Netherlands suggests that smoking weed could raise the risk of depression for young people who already have a special serotonin gene that could make them more vulnerable to depression.
Those findings are bolstered by the NASEM report, which found moderate evidence that cannabis use was linked to a small increased risk of depression.
The Effects Of Marijuana On Your Memory
As you get older, certain aspects of memory normally decline, but that does not mean you are powerless to protect your brain as you age. In fact, there is a lot you can do. In addition to getting regular exercise and eating a Mediterranean style diet, you can also consider what is known and not known about marijuana.
Cannabis contains varying amounts of the potentially therapeutic compound cannabidiol , which may help quell anxiety. However, there’s no question that marijuana can produce short-term problems with thinking, working memory, executive function, and psychomotor function . This is because marijuana’s main psychoactive chemical, THC, causes its effect by attaching to receptors in brain regions that are vital for memory formation, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebral cortex. The extent to which long-term use of marijuana produces persistent cognitive problems is not known.
The laws regarding marijuana differ from state to state. Some outlaw it altogether, while others allow it for medical purposesto help relieve pain and nausea, for example. And in a growing number of states, marijuana is legal for recreational use. But it remains illegal at the federal level. For that reason, it has been difficult for researchers in the United States to obtain federal research funding to study marijuana, limiting the amount of high-quality evidence available.
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The Brain’s Reward System
The brains of people who have smoked pot for many years may respond differently to certain rewards, compared with the brains of people who don’t use the drug, according to a recent study. In the study, researchers wanted to see whether the brains of 59 chronic marijuana users would respond differently to the photos of objects used for smoking marijuana than they did to the photos of objects that are considered “natural rewards,” such as their favorite fruits.
The scientists found that study participants who had smoked marijuana for 12 years, on average, exhibited greater activity in the brain’s reward system when they looked at photos of objects that they used for smoking marijuana than when they looked at photos of their favorite fruits. In comparison, the people in the control group who did not smoke marijuana did not show greater activity in this brain region when they were shown marijuana-related objects, according to the findings, published in May 2016 in the journal Human Brain Mapping.
“This study shows that marijuana disrupts the natural reward circuitry of the brain, making marijuana highly to those who use it heavily,” study author Dr. Francesca Filbey, an associate professor of behavioral and brain science at the University of Texas at Dallas, said in a statement.;
Is Cannabis Good For The Brain
Back in 1988,;Francis Young, a DEA Administrative Law Judge responded to a petition to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II substance, acknowledging the herbs medical value.
While the media and the available research seemingly go back and forth on the risks of cannabis, Judge Young was confident in the herbs safety and therapeutic application.
After strenuous research and review of the case, Judge Young ultimately recommended that the plant be rescheduled. He states,
one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. In strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many;foods we commonly consume.
Now, nearly two decades later, there is far more information on the health risks of cannabis. Today, ample preclinical evidence suggests that compounds in the herb are:
All of these qualities suggest that the herb may possibly improve brain health in certain conditions. However, what those conditions are exactly are difficult to determine. In terms of occasional to moderate cannabis consumption, there is little evidence that the herb causes any sort of long-term damage.
Other than becoming dependent on cannabis, there is still no evidence of serious health harms caused by even chronic cannabis use. Though, studies like those cited in the above section;suggest that harms may be possible.
Yet, for many, regular cannabis use can;drastically improve quality of life and assist in healing in some mental and neurological conditions.
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Get To The Point: Does Marijuana Cause Addiction
A common question related to these changes in the brain that can be attributed to substances like weed is: is it addictive?
In general, most people would want to say no. Since Its naturally occurring it, it can be used for medicine and it doesnt feel like Im addicted.
The true answer, however, is that yes, marijuana can be considered addictive.
According to research conducted by, and with, the National Institute of Drug Abuse , THC can lead to a marijuana use disorder or cannabis use disorder. This is a type of substance use disorder that is characterized by dependence on a substance, in this case, marijuana.
Marijuana use disorder becomes an addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with a lot of different aspects of everyday life. Some studies, as reported by NIDA, suggest that 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17% in those who start using it in their teens;.
Some studies have shown that there is an addiction to marijuana because the features of the three stages of drug addiction outlined by clinical researchers are also present in those who show dependence on cannabis.
Part of this may be due to the increase in the THC level in weed within recent years and particularly over the last handful of decades. This makes addiction or dependence much more likely than ever before.