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How Does Marijuana Affect The Brain

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A Person Could Need More Sedation Medication For Surgery If They Have A Regular Marijuana Habit

How does marijuana affect your brain?

A small study in the May 2019 issue of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that people who reported smoking marijuana or eating edibles on a daily or weekly basis needed higher doses of medication for sedation.

The researchers found that people who used marijuana daily or weekly needed 14% more fentanyl, 19.6% more midazolam, and 220.5% more propofol for the full length of their procedures than their counterparts who didn’t use as much marijuana.

Researchers haven’t determined why this was the case, but they believe marijuana could potentially desensitize the body’s receptors that process sedatives.

Marijuana Protects Brain Cells

At the heart of most of this research is the discovery that .

The THC in marijuana protects brain neurons from trauma. This trauma can show up as depression, anxiety, and other health-related issues.

CB2, another chemical in marijuana, is an anti-inflammatory. This is useful for people who have chronic pain, and it also promotes brain health in the long run.

Cannabis Uses Include Ptsd Treatment

Using marijuana as a treatment is popular with people who suffer from PTSD.

For the same reasons that marijuana helps with depression, cannabis helps with PTSD. The chemical THC has been linked to reducing traumatic memories that could trigger a PTSD attack.

In fact, patients who smoked weed saw a decrease in their PTSD symptoms of about 75 percent.

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Most Importantly Regular Weed Use Is Linked With Some Specific Brain Changes But Scientists Can’t Say For Sure Whether One Causes The Other

In a recent study, scientists used MRI brain scans to get a better picture of the brains of adults who have smoked weed at least four times a week for years.

Compared to people who rarely or never used the drug, the long-term users tended to have a smaller orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region critical for processing emotions and making decisions. But they also had stronger cross-brain connections, which scientists think smokers may develop to compensate.

Still, the study doesn’t show that smoking pot caused certain regions of the brain to shrink other studies suggest that having a smaller orbitofrontal cortex in the first place could make someone more likely to start smoking.

Psychological Effects Of Marijuana


Marijuanas effects on perception, mood and emotion can cause serious problems, especially in people who use the drug to self-medicate for depression, anxiety or schizophrenia. Although marijuana is known for producing effects like elation, giddiness or sedation, some users experience paranoia and increased anxiety, according to the Center for Substance Abuse Research. Marijuanas effects on mental perception may worsen psychotic symptoms in people who suffer from schizophrenia. If youre trying to stop using marijuana, you may experience edginess, irritability, anxiety or depression.

Although the long-term psychological and cognitive effects of marijuana use are unknown, there is clear evidence that cannabis abuse can affect your ability to remember, learn and perform basic daily tasks like driving a car safely. If youve tried to stop using marijuana but you cant seem to break your habit, an addiction treatment program can help. Many marijuana users underestimate the power of this drug to cause dependence and undermine your health. If youre ready to admit that you need help getting clean, addiction specialists are ready to help you start a new, drug-free life.

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Edible Marijuanas Effects On The Body

When cannabis is consumed as food, the chain of events is slightly different, and it typically takes 60 to 100 minutes to feel the effects versus just a few minutes for smoking, Gruber says. Obviously, that pot brownie bypasses the lungs, but it must be digested before the THC can be absorbed and delivered to the brain.

Before THC goes to the brain, it must pass through the liver. There, its metabolized and converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a more potent compound than THC, Piomelli says. Next, this more potent version travels to the brain.

Interestingly, cisgender women are much more efficient at making 11-hydroxy-THC than cis men are, which makes most women more sensitive to ingesting pot. It is well known that men tend to like cannabis more than women, and its not because our brains are different, Piomelli says. Its mostly because our livers are different, and women have more active metabolisms, so more 11-hydroxy-THC gets to the brain.

THC is a fat-like molecule, so once it gets to the fatty brain, it sticks around for a while. After several hours, the initial high starts dissipating, and one effect is feeling hungry or having the munchies, Piomelli says. But this isnt real hunger its more like an increased appreciation of the sensory properties of food. Once you start eating, its hard to stop because whatever youre eating tastes amazing.

Composition And Composition Changes Of Cannabis/marijuana Preparations

Over the last 2030 years, the composition of cannabis products has changed due to the fact that cannabis is grown in doors and that strains are cultivated with different THC and CBD contents and THC:CBD ratios . Thus, it was found in a large European study in samples from 28 EU countries and Norway and Turkey that from 2006 until 2016 the THC content in resin and in herbal cannabis increased from 8.14 to 17.22% and from 5.0 to 10.22%, respectively . A similar development was found in samples from France over a 25-year period ranging from 1992 to 2015 . Comparable increases in THC content in the resin were found in Denmark from 2000 to 2017 with an increase in THC:CBD ratio from 1.4 in 2008 to 4.4 in 2017 .

Table 1.

Changes in the composition of marijuana and hashish

Interestingly, in the Netherlands the THC content remained nearly unaltered . However, that means that in the Netherlands the THC resin content in 2005 was with 16% in the range, which was achieved in other European countries at 2016.

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The Effect Of Marijuana On The Teenage Brain

When a person uses marijuana, the principal psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol passes from the lungs or digestive tract into the bloodstream. The blood carries THC to the brain, where it acts on specific cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are predominantly found in areas of the brain associated with concentration, thinking, sensory and time perception, pleasure, memory, and coordination.3 Overactivation of these areas by THC causes the high that people feel.4 such as attention, memory, and learning, and these effects can last up to several days beyond the time of actual high.5

Unfortunately for teenagers, marijuana use can have much more long-term effects. The teenage brain is not yet fully mature, with neurodevelopment continuing until at least the early or mid-20s. During adolescence the brain is particularly sensitive to drug exposure, and marijuana use impacts how connections are formed within the brain.3 Other effects on the developing brain include interference with neurotransmitters and abnormal brain shape and structure volume.6

Studies have shown that the use of marijuana is associated with reduced cognitive function in teens.7 One study found that teens who regularly use marijuana lose an average of 5.8 IQ points by the time they reach adulthood.8 A recent study found that marijuana has a more negative impact on a teenagers cognitive development than alcohol.9

What Does Weed Do To The Brain

How Does Marijuana Affect Your 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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How Does Marijuana Affect The Brain

As recreational Marijuana use becomes legalized throughout the US, many people now wonder how affects the brain and whether or not it kills brain cells. Just as years of heavy alcohol, Meth, and Heroin use can cause some irreversible brain damage, prolonged Marijuana abuse can affect the ability of brain cells to convey messages . Using Marijuana can cause damage to brain cells that results in a number of concurrent symptoms throughout the body.

Like other drugs, components of Marijuana bind with specific receptors in the brain. Tetrahydrocannabinol is Marijuanas primary Psychoactive ingredient, and it attaches to the brains Cannabinoid receptors . These receptors connect to nerves in the brain which govern memory, appetite, pain regulation, and mood.

When a person smokes Marijuana, they may notice they struggle with staying focused or recalling important details. This can worsen with prolonged Marijuana use, resulting in problems like poor memory and concentration. Motor skills can also be affected by the drug. If users decide to drive while high, they can endanger their lives and the lives of others.

How Does Marijuana Produce Its Effects

THCs chemical structure is similar to the brain chemical anandamide. Similarity in structure allows the body to recognize THC and to alter normal brain communication.

Endogenous cannabinoids such as anandamide function as neurotransmitters because they send chemical messages between nerve cells throughout the nervous system. They affect brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception. Because of this similarity, THC is able to attach to molecules called cannabinoid receptors on neurons in these brain areas and activate them, disrupting various mental and physical functions and causing the effects described earlier. The neural communication network that uses these cannabinoid neurotransmitters, known as the endocannabinoid system, plays a critical role in the nervous systems normal functioning, so interfering with it can have profound effects.

THC, acting through cannabinoid receptors, also activates the brains reward system, which includes regions that govern the response to healthy pleasurable behaviors such as sex and eating. Like most other drugs that people misuse, THC stimulates neurons in the reward system to release the signaling chemical dopamine at levels higher than typically observed in response to natural rewarding stimuli. The surge of dopamine teaches the brain to repeat the rewarding behavior, helping account for marijuanas addictive properties.

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Synthetic Marijuanas Effect On The Brain

Synthetic Marijuana, a man-made Hallucinogenic substance typically sprayed onto plant material, is not safe for human consumption but has become popular in recent years. Also known as Fake Weed, it produces mind-altering effects and can cause the individual to act in an odd manner. Synthetic Marijuana is illegal and may have toxic ingredients that can cause increased heart rate, unexplained bleeding, and vomiting.

Similarly to Marijuana, Synthetic Marijuana affects the brain by attaching itself to the Cannabinoid receptor type 1 found in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Synthetic weed binds more strongly to CB1 receptors than THC, making it at least 100 times more potent in the brain. Because CB1 receptors have multiple locations in the brain, side effects can be intense and harmful.

Synthetic Marijuana may cause the brain and body to experience:

  • Memory loss

Acute Effects Of Marijuana On Psychomotor Skills

Does marijuana damage the brain?

Since cannabinoid receptors are abundant in the basal ganglia and cerebellum , and these parts are associated with psychomotor skills, its no coincidence that the use of marijuana has an immediate effect on your psychomotor skills.

Most studies that looked at the effects of marijuana on psychomotor skills found that especially THC has the potential to impair psychomotor function, for example, a study here.

Most of the studies that looked at the acute effects of marijuana on psychomotor skills found that:

  • The more THC is in your system, the worse the impairment, and
  • The less frequent you use marijuana, the worse the impairment .

In a meta-analysis of 150 experimental studies that looked at the effects of marijuana on physical activity, researchers found that smoking marijuana acutely impaired the following physical performance areas:

  • Tracking

How does this information apply to your marijuana use?

Its clear that marijuana can severely influence your psychomotor skills and reaction time.

NEVER drive while under the influence of marijuana. Especially the first few hours after smoking/vaping it your psychomotor skills, attention and reaction time can be severely impaired.

Besides driving, just avoid any type of physical activity in which its possible to hurt yourself or others and which needs a high level of attention, reaction time and/or a high degree of psychomotor skills.

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Cause And Effect Conundrum

Although animal studies like these have revealed several potential mechanisms by which cannabis might do harm, its hard to determine what this means for human teens. Increased risk of psychiatric disorders is a major concern, with schizophrenia having attracted the most attention and controversy. In double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, intravenous doses of pure THC have induced temporary symptoms resembling some aspects of schizophrenia . But researchers are still trying to establish whether cannabis use, especially in adolescence, could lead to full-blown schizophrenia in the long run.

In a landmark 1987 study, researchers reported a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia risk among more than 45,000 Swedish military conscripts who were examined at the time of conscription around age 19 and again 15 years later. Those who had used cannabis more than 50 times before conscription were six times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia by the 15-year mark. The association was weaker, though still present, after controlling for factors such as adverse childhood conditions and diagnosis of other psychiatric disorders at the time of conscription .

Complicating matters, the neurobiological mechanisms behind schizophrenia itself are not well understood, and a number of other factorsincluding

Clearly theres something unique about the adolescent brain that makes it specifically sensitive to THC.

Steven Laviolette

Negative Effects On School And Social Life

  • Students who smoke marijuana may get lower grades and may more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who do not use.4
  • Increased risk of mental health issues. Marijuana use has been linked to a range of mental health problems in teens such as depression or anxiety.5 Psychosis has also been seen in teens at higher risk like those with a family history.6
  • Impaired driving. Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous. Marijuana negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving, such as reaction time, coordination, and concentration.7, 8
  • Potential for addiction.a Research shows that about 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted, which means that they may make unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana or may give up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.

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The Downsides Of Marijuana

The rising prominence of medical and recreational-use marijuana has led to an erroneous belief that weed cant be harmful. Although it comparatively carries fewer risks than other substances, its by no means a safe drug. Unfortunately, those for whom marijuana poses the most risks also make up the majority of its user base. If you know a teenager or college student with an addiction, getting them help isnt just important for their physical health, but their cognitive abilities as well. Learn more about addiction resources for college students and how you can help.

Protective Effects Related To Long Term Marijuana Use

How Does Marijuana Affect Your Brain?

Science has shown that certain compounds in marijuana have strong protective effects on the brain. And according to some studies marijuana has the potential to be used as a treatment for various diseases that have their origins in the brain.


In a study done in 2008, researchers found that the most well-known compound in marijuana: THC, is a considerably superior inhibitor of A aggregation than currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimers disease. A aggregation is the key process that leads to loss of neurons in Alzheimers disease.

A more recent study in 2014, also confirmed that THC is effective at lowering A aggregation at extremely low concentrations in a dose-dependent manner.

Brain cancer

The 2 most well-known cannabinoids in marijuana:

Have been shown to stop the growth of one of the most aggressive cancers in adult humans: glioma . THC and CBD have been shown to be especially effective in stopping the growth of glioma when combined with traditional radiotherapy.

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In The Short Term It Can Also Make Your Heart Race

Within a few minutes of inhaling marijuana, your heart rate can increase by between 20 and 50 beats a minute. This can last anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The NASEM report found insufficient evidence to support or refute the idea that cannabis might increase the overall risk of a heart attack. The same report, however, also found some limited evidence that smoking could be a trigger for a heart attack.

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