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How Does Weed Affect Your Brain

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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.

The Bottom Line On Marijuana

There is some evidence that occasional pot smoking can have harmful effects on the body, although the science is still too new to prove anything.

“We’re learning new things every day,” says Matthew J. Smith, PhD, a research assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Before we can really understand the effects of marijuana, further research is needed.”

U.S Department of Health and Human Services: “Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Summary of National Findings.”

Gallup: “For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana.”

CNN: “Marijuana is safer than alcohol.”

Hall, W. The Lancet, October 2009.

Moir, D. Chemical Research in Toxicology, February 2008.

Pletcher, M.J. JAMA, January 2012.

Jeanette Marie Tetrault, MD, FACP, assistant professor of medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “Is marijuana addictive?”

Fiellin, L. Journal of Adolescent Health, February 2013.

Mehra, R. Archives of Internal Medicine, July 2006.

Smith, M.J. Schizophrenia Bulletin, December 2013.

Matthew J. Smith, PhD, research assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: “DrugFacts: Marijuana.”

Li, Mu-Chen. Epidemiologic Reviews, October 2011.

Columbia University: “Go Ask Alice! Eating Marijuana.”

Pletcher, M.J. JAMA, January 2012.

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

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It Can Increase Your Risk Of Psychosis

Marijuana use can cause or exacerbate symptoms of psychosis, which may include paranoia or hallucinations, according to Dr. Chiligiris. “Individuals with certain genetic vulnerabilities may be at greater risk to developing psychosis with cannabis use,” says Dr. Chiligiris. “With higher potency THC available, including edibles, individuals may be at risk for more significant or earlier onset of mental health concerns such as psychosis.” While this may not be the case for everyone, it is something to consider.

The Harmful Effects Of Marijuana


The immediate effects of taking marijuana include rapid heart beat, disorientation, lack of physical coordination, often followed by depression or sleepiness. Some users suffer panic attacks or anxiety.22

But the problem does not end there. According to scientific studies, the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, remains in the body for weeks or even;months.23

Marijuana smoke contains 50% to 70% more cancer-causing substances than tobacco smoke.24 One major research study reported that a single cannabis joint could cause as much damage to the lungs as up to five regular cigarettes smoked one after another.4 Long-time joint smokers often suffer from bronchitis, an inflammation of the respiratory;tract.25

The drug can affect more than your physical health. Studies in Australia in 2008 linked years of heavy marijuana use to brain abnormalities.26 This is backed up by earlier research on the long-term effects of marijuana, which indicate changes in the brain similar to those caused by long-term abuse of other major drugs. And a number of studies have shown a connection between continued marijuana use and;psychosis.27

Thus even small amounts of marijuana can cause temporary sterility in men.28 Marijuana use can also disrupt a womans menstrual;cycle.29

Studies show that the mental functions of people who have smoked a lot of marijuana tend to be diminished. The THC in cannabis disrupts nerve cells in the brain, affecting;memory.30

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Is It True That Smoking Weed Kills Brain Cells

Studies suggest that can cause cognitive deficits in adults who have used marijuana in childhood. However, the extent of impairment seems to depend on when you started using, how long youve used, and how much youre using now.

According to the NIH National Institute of Drug Abuse, researchers who study the link between marijuana and reduced IQ scores do not always get the same results. Therefore, their findings to date are inconclusive.

Its difficult to prove that marijuana causes IQ score deficiency when so many variables come into play. A host of other factors can reduce IQ scores just as easily as marijuana.

Lower scores can result from early childhood trauma, poor quality of education, genetics, age of initial cannabis use, and duration of use to name just a few.

Although there may be a correlation between lower IQ scores and marijuana use, theres just not enough information at this time to reliably ascertain whether marijuana lowers childrens IQ scores or not.

How Marijuana Affects The Brain

When someone smokes, vapes or ingests pot, THC latches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that affect pleasure, thought, concentration, sensory and time perception, memory and coordinated movement.

Most people who use pot recreationally seek the happy and relaxed, or stoned, feeling that the drug provides. But weed has undesirable effects as well. It can impair thinking and the ability to form new memories. The drug can also make it difficult to concentrate and perform complex tasks.

In some people, marijuana can trigger anxiety, panic, paranoia and confusion. High doses of pot can even cause temporary psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices and experiencing unwarranted feelings of paranoia or persecution.

Chronic marijuana use has been linked to other mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The drug can also worsen schizophrenia and lead to . People addicted to marijuana will compulsively seek and use the drug despite its negative effects on their life.

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Why Is Weed Bad For Your Brain

Memory deficits associated with marijuana may result from how THC impacts the hippocampus. That part of your brain governs memory formation and determines how you process information. Most of the evidence supporting this theory comes from animal studies.

Rats who ingested THC prior to birth, soon after birth, or during adolescence developed marked difficulties with learning and memory tasks later in life. Deficits in cognition that appear in adult rats are thought to be a function of hippocampal damage caused by THC usage in adolescence.

The hippocampus may lose neurons as people age. That, in turn, reduces a persons ability to integrate new information. Chronic use of THC may speed up the loss of hippocampal neurons over time.

In another study, rats received a daily dose of cannabis for eight months. Thats about one-third of a rats total lifespan. These animals exhibited marked nerve cell damage when they were about 12 months old. The amount of damage was equal to that of rats who were twice as old as the experimental animals.

Pain Relief Could Include The Discomfort Of Arthritis

How Does Marijuana Affect Your Brain?

One of the ways scientists think;marijuana may help with pain is by reducing inflammation, a component of illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis.

A preliminary 2005 study of 58 patients with RA, roughly half of whom were given a placebo and roughly half of whom were given a cannabis-based medicine called Sativex, found “statistically significant improvements in pain on movement, pain at rest, quality of sleep” for patients on Sativex.

Other studies testing other cannabinoid products and inhaled marijuana have shown similar pain-relieving effects, according to the report.

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Effects Of Weed On Your Lungs

The most common way to ingest cannabis is to smoke it, either with tobacco for which the associated health risks are widely known or on its own. Similar to tobacco, marijuana smoke comprises a variety of toxic chemicals, which are an irritant to your throat and lungs, says Sole. These include ammonia and hydrogen cyanide, which can cause inflammation.

Cannabis may also damage your immune system, making you more susceptible to other illnesses. Those who smoke marijuana regularly will experience wheezing, coughing and produce an increased quantity of phlegm as well as being at high risk of bronchitis and lung infections, he continues. Cannabis smoke also contains carcinogens, so it may increase your risk of lung cancer, though research into this is ongoing.

The Way Cannabis Affects The Brain

Located all throughout the human body and brain are so-called cannabinoid receptors, which are part of the entire endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is involved in a variety of physiological processes, including appetite stimulation, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.

What makes cannabis special is that it produces compounds that act in a similar way as the compounds the body creates naturally. Like endocannabinoids found internally, the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant bind and interact with receptors.

THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid binds to receptors in the brain, creating psychoactive effects that influence perception. One difference between endocannabinoids and THC is that the latter lasts longer.

The Entourage Effect: How Cannabinoids & Terpenes Work Together

The natural endocannabinoids, in comparison, are broken down fairly quickly by proteins. Although similar in function, THC does not exactly fit into receptors like its endogenous siblings. This may perhaps explain some of the intensity behind consuming psychoactive cannabis.

The effects of cannabis on the brain go beyond merely making us stoned, relaxed, or giggly as a result of consumption. The reason for this is that cannabinoid receptors are located in the central nervous system, which controls many functions of our body and mind.

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What Happens When Dopamine Levels Rise Due To The Effects Of Thc

Elevated dopamine levels trip the brains reward system, causing feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and achievement. Dopamine can also make time seem to go slower as mental activity speeds up, with increases to libido, energy, and focus.

But, if dopamine levels in your system stay too high for too long, the body will close off some dopamine receptors for a while, even after your high wears off.;

This drops dopamine synthesis in your body, blunting the pleasure you would normally feel from other things in your life like food, physical contact, hobbies, and achievement.

This lack of enjoyment from other activities is a common symptom experienced by heavy marijuana users and those who abuse other drugs like opioids or amphetamines.

Depression And Mood Disorders


The link between marijuana and depression isnt entirely understood either.

While proponents of medical marijuana claim that weed can help alleviate depression, some studies have shown an increased risk of depression with marijuana use.

An Australian study out of the Centre for Adolescent Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute found that teens who smoked pot weekly were twice as likely to develop depression later in life. Young women who used marijuana daily were more than five times as likely as nonusers to report a state of depression and anxiety.

It is still unclear whether marijuana causes depression or whether individuals with depression may gravitate toward using marijuana.

Bipolar disorder causes alternating episodes of depression and mania. During depressive episodes, people may feel sad, hopeless, tired and have suicidal thoughts. In the manic phase of the illness, they may experience increased energy levels, racing thoughts, insomnia and, in severe cases, psychosis.

A 2017 study in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin found that teens who use weed several times a week are more likely to develop a mild form of mania. The researchers reported that early marijuana use may lead to bipolar disorder later in life.

As with depression, the connections between marijuana use and bipolar disorder are not entirely clear.

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Effect Of Marijuana Use On Iq

The effect Marijuana has on the brain is influenced by the amount a person has smoked and the users age. Individuals under 25, whose brains are still developing, are most susceptible to the effects of Marijuana on the brain. A study of Marijuanas effect on IQ revealed individuals who began using Marijuana at a young age lost 6 to 8 points from their IQ by middle age. Moreover, those who smoked Marijuana throughout their adolescence, then stopped, did not regain their IQ points. Conversely, individuals who began using Marijuana in their adulthood did not experience any IQ loss.

Research On The Effect Of Occasional Marijuana Use

The difficulty is that most, if not all, of the previous studies on the subject involved chronic, heavy marijuana smokers.

A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience was the first to link casual, occasional marijuana use with negative effects on the brain.

Although the sample size of the study was small the differences in the brains of the two groups were remarkable, the authors reported.

Researchers at Northwestern University and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 20 young people who reported smoking marijuana at least once per week with 20 others age 18-25 who reported little to no history of marijuana use.

The scientists measured the volume, shape, and density of grey matter in the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. The nucleus accumbens is involved in reward processing and decision making, while the amygdala is associated with emotion.

The participants were screened to determine that none were dependent upon marijuana or any other drugs and none of the participants had ever abused any other drugs.

Those who used marijuana were asked to estimate their marijuana consumption over a three-month period, including the number of days they smoked and the amount of the drug consumed each day.

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It Can Impair Your Memory

Smoking weed can impair memory, attention, and concentration. “For example, impairment in memory occurs because cannabis alters information processing in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain responsible for memory formation,” says Dr. Mooney. Unfortunately, marijuana√Ęs impact to the brain is cumulative, and THC has been found to influence structures associated with concentration, memory, response time, and thought.

Health Risks And Research Restrictions

How Does Marijuana Affect Your Brain?

Even as some research has suggested that long-term marijuana use carries a minimal risk of physical consequences, such as that published in JAMA, scientists still urge caution. Buyer beware, write doctors in Massachusetts, saying that there are not as many health risks associated with heavy marijuana use as previously thought, but health risks exist nonetheless.

The sentiment is shared by some smokers themselves. Writing in Vice magazine, one user noted that most of the heavy smokers he knows get high on a regular basis without the stereotypical feelings of laziness or paranoia. But, he warns, this isnt always the case. As time goes on, and as their habit persists, they tend to experience greater levels of social anxiety and general anxiousness after they smoke compared to when they go without. Some went so far as to note that long-term weed use even changed their personalities, making them less outgoing and socially engaged.

One negative effect the JAMA scientists noticed was that people who smoked pot for a long time tended to have worse periodontal health than others, which in some cases led to the development of gum disease. Those same scientists pointed out that marijuana use is associated with increased risk of psychotic illness, IQ decline, and downward socioeconomic mobility, and that even though this particular study did not find much by way of damage to physical health, heavy recreational cannabis use does have some adverse consequences.

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And You’ll Probably Get The Munchies

A case of the munchies is no figment of the imagination both casual and heavy marijuana users tend to overeat when they smoke.

A recent study in mice suggested the possibility that marijuana may effectively flip a circuit in the brain that is normally responsible for quelling the appetite, triggering us to eat instead.

It all comes down to a special group of cells in the brain that are normally activated after we have eaten a big meal to tell us we’ve had enough. The psychoactive ingredient in weed appears to activate just one component of those appetite-suppressing cells, making us feel hungry rather than satisfied.

A 2014 study found that , despite the munchies phenomenon commonly associated with use.

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