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How Marijuana Affects The Brain

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How Teen Marijuana Use Impacts Brain Development

How Does Marijuana Affect Your Brain?

Editors note: Pravesh Sharma, M.D., received the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Pilot Research Award for junior faculty, and child and adolescent psychiatry fellows supported by AACAP to study the effect of pre-adolescent risk factors on the relationship between adolescent cannabis use and psychosis in adolescents and young adults.

Marijuana is the most common illicit drug among adolescents and young adults. Surveys show fewer of this population now believe marijuana can cause harm. This decline in the perceived risk could lead to increased future use of marijuana. It is important to know that research also shows marijuana use adversely impacts brain development in adolescents and young adults. Marijuana contains more than 500 chemicals, of which delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is considered to be the main psychoactive compound. The concentration of THC in a marijuana product is directly proportional to its potency or how much of a high that product will give when consumed.

Key findings in a national survey on drug use reported daily use of marijuana as early as eighth grade and among 5.9 percent of high school seniors. In addition, 80 percent of seniors said that marijuana would be easy to get. These numbers are cause for concern.



Pravesh Sharma, M.D., is a psychiatrist in Behavioral Health in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

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Cannabis And The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is phylogenetically old, having been identified in the most primitive animals with a neuronal network. In animals, N-arachidonoylethanolamine and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol are the major endocannabinoids. Many of their effects and those of phytocannabinoids are mediated by CB1 and CB2 receptors, which primarily couple to G proteins of the Gi and G0 classes, although some cannabinoids engage other receptors . CB1 receptors, which mediate many of the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids, are found in high densities in several brain regions and the eye, and in lower densities throughout the body . Among the most abundant G protein-coupled receptors in the brain , they are localized primarily to neurons but also are expressed in glia . CB2 receptors are found in immune cells and in some neurons. The endocannabinoid system comprises these receptors, the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, and the enzymes that regulate their production and degradation .

The localizations of cannabinoid receptors also are consistent with important roles in reward, reinforcement, and addiction. CB2 receptors are expressed in dopamine neurons of the midbrain ventral tegmental area , where effects on THC receptors may modulate addiction-related behaviors, such as drug reinforcement . CB1 and mu receptors are co-localized in striatal output projection neurons of the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum, which modulate reward and habit formation, respectively .

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.

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When Can Marijuana Be Harmful

  • Contact Better Addiction Care for Marijuana Addiction Help
  • Many U.S. states have legalized weed for medicinal use, and nine states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use. But the jury is still out on the drug depending on who you ask, marijuana is either a gateway drug or a promising way to treat conditions from arthritis to HIV.

    But what is the truth? Is marijuana harmful? Should people who use weed go to rehab, like others who seek drug and alcohol addiction treatment? Lets look at some of the potentially bad effects of weed.

    How Marijuana Affects The Brain

    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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    In addition, some studies have shown that early and frequent cannabis use in adolescence predicts poor cognition in adulthood, he added.

    While science sorts this out, preventive and interventional measures to educate youths on cannabis use and discourage them from using the substance in a chronic manner should be considered since youths remain particularly susceptible to the effects of cannabis, Dumais said.

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    Contact Better Addiction Care For Marijuana Addiction Help

    If you believe that you or someone you love is suffering from dependence on weed, its important to get help from an addiction specialist as soon as possible. Better Addiction Care wants to help you connect with the right specialist for your unique needs. Our team can help you find a rehab facility that works for you to start your recovery journey on the right foot.

    Our treatment advisors know that the right program is essential to your recovery. Well work with you to learn all we can about your medical needs, substance use history, recovery goals, insurance provider, and much more. Then, well connect you with the addiction treatment center best fit for you! Before you know it, youll be on your way to recovery and youll have plenty of support at your side.

    Let Better Addiction Care be the helping hand you need to take that first step toward sobriety. Whether youre looking for a place to attend court-ordered rehab, a private facility for a loved one, or you want more information about your treatment options we are here to help 24/7.

    Call us today at 429-7690.


  • Gramlich, J. . Four-in-ten U.S. drug arrests in 2018 were for marijuana offenses mostly possession. Pew Research. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from
  • CDC. . CDC. Retrieved June 3, 2022 from
  • The Science Of Marijuana: How Thc Affects The Brain

    unPHILtered: How Marijuana Affects The Brain
    First published 2011. To view the latest Heads Up content,

    Some people believe smoking marijuana carries no risks. But scientific research shows that there are risks, especially for teens. Marijuana affects a persons judgment and can impair his or her ability to drive. For those who use it regularly, it can lead to poor academic performance, or even addiction.

    So how does marijuana have such a big impact on a persons ability to function?

    Scientists have asked themselves that question for a long time. And after several decades of research they not only figured out how marijuana works, but scientists also discovered an important communications system in the brain and the body, which they called the endocannabinoid system after the cannabis plant from which marijuana comes.

    Endowhat? Understanding the science of marijuana began in the mid-1960s with the identification of THC as marijuanas main active ingredient. Twenty years later, scientists identified the sites in the brain and body where marijuana acts and called them cannabinoid receptors.

    Scientists then discovered the bodys own natural chemicalsanandamide and 2-AG which also act on CB receptors. These chemicals , along with their receptors, make up the endocannabinoid system.

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    Acute Effects Of Marijuana On The Brain

    The acute effects of marijuana are the effects that are immediately noticeable.

    And the reported acute effects of marijuana on the brain are plenty, but all of them can be categorized in:

    • protective effects
    • Cognitive effects
    • Psychoactive effects.

    Also, the acute effects, especially the psychoactive effects, are more subjective and individual than the long-term effects on the brain.

    About the short-term effects of marijuana, studies can only speak in generalities. For example, most studies find that the concentration of people under the influence of marijuana worsens. But youll also find anecdotal reports of marijuana users saying they improve their concentration by using it.

    The acute effects of marijuana are also highly dependent on variables like:

    • Mode of use ,
    • The strain,

    That said, lets take a look at what the studies are showing.

    Cannabinoid Mechanisms In The Hippocampus And Effects On Memory

    One of the well established effects of acute intoxication with cannabis in man is an impairment of shortterm memory . Many studies have shown significant effects on shortterm memory, particularly when tests were used that depend heavily on attention . Animal studies have also found that THC, synthetic cannabinoids and anandamide cause deficits in shortterm memory in spatial learning tasks . These include delayed matching or nonmatching tests in rodents , performance in a radial arm maze , and a fixed ratio food acquisition task in squirrel monkeys . The effects of both cannabinoids and anandamide were reversed by rimonabant, indicating that they are mediated by the CB1 receptor.

    One approach to answering the question of what role the tonic release of endocannabinoids may play in hippocampal function has been to examine the effects of CB1 receptor knockout or of selective CB1 receptor antagonists. Un fortunately, these studies have so far yielded conflicting results. reported a significant enhancement of LTP in CB1 knockout mice, and found a significant enhancement of memory in such animals. However, tests with the CB1 antagonist rimonabant showed no effects on LTP or on learning and memory in a spatial learning task , although

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    How Does Marijuana Affect Your Brain

    Even though THC is the most well-known compound of the marijuana plant , this complex plant contains over 500 known compounds, and probably many unknown compounds.

    Now, what really sets marijuana apart from the other plants in the vegetable kingdom, is a specific type of compound only found in the marijuana plant:

    • Cannabinoids

    Cannabinoids are compounds mainly responsible for the effects of marijuana.

    Why do I say mainly?

    Because there are other types of compounds in marijuana as well, like terpenoids and flavonoids, and research suggests that these other compounds have a separate effect on your mind and body , plus influence the effects of cannabinoids as well .

    But cannabinoids are the main compounds that need to be looked at, to understand marijuana’s effect on the brain.

    And of all these cannabinoids, THC is the one that has the most profound effect on your brain. THC is currently the only known psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana and the cannabinoid that is responsible for your high.

    Exogenous Cannabinoids And Their Receptors

    Adolescents may suffer long

    The principal active component in the complex mixture of cannabinoids present in extracts of the plant Cannabis sativa is 9tetrahydrocannabinol . THC is a sticky resin that is not soluble in water. Smoking remains the most efficient means of delivering the drug and experienced users can titrate the dose by adjusting the frequency and depth of inhalation . THC or cannabis extracts can also be taken orally in fatcontaining foods or dissolved in a suitable pharmaceutical oil, but absorption is delayed and variable . A series of manmade synthetic cannabinoids, some of which are more potent and more water soluble than THC, is also available . All of these compounds act as agonists at the CB1 cannabinoid receptor , which is the only one known to be expressed in the brain. A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, is expressed only in peripheral tissues, principally in the immune system . THC and the synthetic cannabinoids also act to some extent as agonists at the CB2 receptor. Both cannabinoid receptors are members of the Gprotein coupled class, and their activation is linked to inhibition of adenylate cyclase activity . A series of synthetic drugs is also now available that act as specific antagonists at CB1 or CB2 receptors . One of these compounds, rimonabant, which acts selectively to block CB1 receptors , has been widely used in studies of the actions of cannabinoids in the CNS .

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    How Does Cannabis Use Affect Brain Health Caution Advised More Research Needed

    Statement Highlights:

    • Although recreational and medicinal marijuana is increasingly available across the U.S., public and professional awareness that cannabis use may adversely affect brain health is critical, according to the American Heart Associations first scientific statement on the subject.
    • Animal studies indicate that marijuanas psychoactive component, THC, may lead to behavioral and cognitive abnormalities, particularly if exposure occurs prenatally or during adolescence.
    • However, studies in humans have had mixed results, with some suggesting a higher risk of cognitive impairment due to marijuana use and further research needed on exact consequences.
    • The statement outlines the latest research and the need for future studies to address several open questions about how marijuana may impact brain health.

    Embargoed until 6 a.m. CT / 7 a.m. ET Thursday, Feb 10, 2022

    Theres a lot of uncertainty in the medical community about the health effects of marijuana. This scientific statement is intended to guide health care professionals in having a balanced and intentional discussion with patients about the potential known and unknown effects of marijuana on brain health, said writing group Chair Fernando D. Testai, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA, a professor of neurology and rehabilitation at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

    The statement also highlights numerous open questions on the impact of cannabis on brain health, including:

    Additional Resources:

    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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    Largest Effect On Young Brains

    Researchers believe that marijuana’s strongest long-term effects occur with young smokers whose brains are still developing neural connections.

    Research into the effects of marijuana on the brain has been hampered by the fact that most people who use marijuana also drink alcohol, or other substances, which can have their own negative effects on the brain.

    How Do Cannabinoids Affect The Brain

    Is marijuana bad for your brain? – Anees Bahji

    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 00428-9″ rel=”nofollow”> 2):

    • 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.

    Heres why:

    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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