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What Does Marijuana Do To Your Brain

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How does marijuana affect your brain?

Cannabinoids — the active chemicals in medical marijuana — are similar to chemicals the body makes that are involved in appetite, memory, movement, and pain.

Limited research suggests cannabinoids might:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce inflammation and relieve pain
  • Control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy
  • Kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth
  • Relax tight muscles in people with MS
  • Stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS

The Positive Effects Of Smoking Weed

1. Prevents Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

First of all, the Clinical Psychology Review found that weed helps people with drug or opioid addictions. However, note that the likelihood of becoming dependent on other substances, as pointed out by another study.

2. Depression

The Clinical Psychology Review published another study indicating that weed may treat some symptoms of mental illness. It helps depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms, but may not be as efficient in the treatment of psychosis or bipolar disorder.

3. Reduces Chronic Pain

Also, weed eases some of the symptoms of pain. Chronic pain affects nearly 25 million adults in the United States.

A review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that cannabinoids, active ingredients in this plant, are effective at relieving chronic pain. They act on the receptors of the brain that indicate and ease it.

4. Cancer

Evidence suggests that cannabinoids combat nausea and vomiting. Smoked weed helps to alleviate such symptoms. Furthermore, smoking weed in the short term may halt the growth of cancer cells.

5. Multiple Sclerosis

Weed also relieves the symptoms of spasticity in patients with Multiple Sclerosis. Note, though, that the positive effects of this are limited.

6. Epilepsy

Connection To Cancer Is Unclear

Researchers havent found any links between smoking weed and cancers in the lung, head, or the neck. Limited evidence suggests that heavy marijuana use may lead to one type of testicular cancer. We dont have enough information whether cannabis may lead to other cancers, including:

  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

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How Teen Marijuana Use Impacts Brain Development

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.

Topics in this Post

What Does Weed Do To Your Brain

Does marijuana damage the brain?

Does cannabis harm the brain? Does it help it? What are the long-term impacts of the herb? Recent research has some suggestions.

Have you ever wondered what weed does to your brain? Compounds in the cannabis plant interact directly with brain cells, contributing to both the;psychoactive and therapeutic effects of the plant. But, are these effects harmful? Does cannabis cause lasting changes to the brain? Researchers have only just begun to uncover the mysteries of cannabis and the brain, but here is a brief summary of some of the literature thus far.

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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.;

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.

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How Does Thc Affect The Brain

The effects of marijuana are based on its main active chemicals tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol . They bind with cannabinoid receptors and engage in organ system control.

When weed smoke is inhaled, it takes just a few minutes for THC to reach the brain and bind with said receptors. THC has a strong affinity for both CB1 and CB2. Meaning, it influences the whole body.

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

Your Brain on Drugs: Marijuana

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.

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Every Dose Is Personal

Not only that, but how the exact same weed from the exact same source makes you feel can change as well. The amount of chemical compounds in the plant depends on a range of variables including the time of day its harvested and how its stored. There are no guarantees. Its an imprecise science and experimentation is part of the process.

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It May Harm Your Heart

Marijuana makes your heart work harder. Normally the heart beats about 50 to 70 times a minute. But that can jump to 70 to 120 beats or more per minute for 3 hours after the effects of pot kick in. The added strain plus tar and other chemicals in pot may raise your chance of heart attack or stroke. The danger is even bigger if youre older or if you already have heart problems.

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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.

Munchies And The Brain

Marijuana and Kids

Marijuana may affect certain neurons in the brain that are normally responsible for suppressing appetite, and this effect may explain why people often get very hungry after smoking pot, according to a 2015 study in mice. In the study, researchers stimulated the mice’s appetites by manipulating the same cellular pathway as the one that mediates pot’s effects on the brain, and then observed what was going on in the mice’s brains during the experiment.

The scientists expected that the neurons that typically suppress appetite would be turned off by their efforts to stimulate the rodents’ appetites. But, contrary to their expectations, it turned out that those neurons were actually activated, because they had switched to releasing chemicals that promote hunger, study author Dr. Tamas Horvath, a professor of neurobiology at Yale University, told Live Science in a 2015 interview.

It’s not clear whether it would work the same way in people, the researchers noted. But it has been suggested that using marijuana makes people hungry, they said.

The finding could point to a way to treat the loss of both appetite and weight that some cancer patients experience while undergoing treatments, the researchers said.

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Does Thc Affect Mental Function

Pot users have long been stereotyped as having reduced mental abilities. When cannabis was illegal, it was difficult to study the effect of THC on a large number of human subjects, but several effects have been proven.

Coordination, reaction time, concentration and decision-making abilities are all affected by THC.

Mood-altering drugs can be dangerous for people with a personal or family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Studies on humans show that THC intoxication causes a measurable difficulty in accessing verbal memories.

When they are high, pot users may be unable to find the word they want to express a certain thought.

Studies link this outcome to the presence of THC in the brain. Once the THC breaks down, that tongue-tied state passes.

The larger question is whether THC use results in the impairment of cognitive performance after the intoxication wears off.

Now that pot is legal, better studies are planned to answer that question.

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Individuals With Inflammatory Bowel Disease May Also Find Some Relief

Some people with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis could also benefit from marijuana use, studies suggest.

A 2014 paper, for example, describes two studies of people with chronic Crohn’s. Half were given the drug and half;got a placebo. That study showed a decrease in symptoms in 10 of 11 subjects using cannabis, compared with just four of 10 on the placebo. But when the researchers did a follow-up study using low-dose CBD, they saw no effect in the patients.

Researchers say that, for now, we need more research before we’ll know whether cannabis can help with these diseases.

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How Does Marijuana Work In The Brain

Jenny L. Williamson, Helen T. Buckland, Susanna L. Cunningham; How Does Marijuana Work IN the Brain?. The American Biology Teacher 1 April 2013; 75 : 299300. doi:

Building upon last months review of the endocannabinoid system , we now take a closer look at marijuana, which, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is the most commonly used illegal and addictive drug worldwide . Unfounded scare tactics from the early 1900s, as well as social acceptance for this drug, have created a false sense of security regarding its use. How does marijuana work in the human brain, and are there reasons for concern?

THC is biphasic, meaning that effects of low dosages are opposite those of high dosages . However, biphasic actions do not occur simply in relation to different dosages of THC. reported in animal studies that methods used to evaluate the reward properties of a drug may actually determine the outcome. For most reinforcing drugs, the method conditioned place preference , works well. With THC, depending on the conditions of the experiment, one may get either conditioned place preference or conditioned place aversion .

Figure 1.

Dots represent areas where THC binds in the human brain: frontal and limbic areas , ventral tegmental area , and cerebellum .

Figure 1.

Dots represent areas where THC binds in the human brain: frontal and limbic areas , ventral tegmental area , and cerebellum .

From Youth To Adulthood

How Does Marijuana Affect Your Brain?

Aside from memory, other research has looked at the long-term effects of marijuana on dopamine. Production of the neurotransmitter that regulates the pleasure and reward centers of the brain can be compromised if the marijuana use is heavy, according to an article in Molecular Psychiatry found. People who smoked a lot of marijuana tested positive for lower dopamine release in the region of the brain that also controls attention and impulsive behavior. Participants in this study tended to start smoking pot around the age of 16 and became dependent on the substance by 20. In the month before the study was conducted, nearly all users reported smoking marijuana on a daily basis.

A former president of the American Psychiatric Association , saying that there is a growing body of evidence that shows that youth use of cannabis develops into problems in adulthood.

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Mind Over Marijuana: What Pot Really Does To Your Brain

    Sorry, folks, pot is still an illegal;substance;in America. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently doubled down on keeping it that way for the foreseeable future. But Uncle Sam’s announcement wasn’t entirely a buzzkill. The DEA did agree;to lift restrictions on pot growing for research purposes, allowing sanctioned scientists to grow weed in their labs.;Prior to this, the University of Mississippi was the only federally sanctioned distributor for cannabis for research.

    What does this mean for you weed-toting residents of Colorado, Washington, or card-carrying smokers in California? Well, researchers will finally be able to get a real grasp on how impactful marijuana is for pain; why we get the munchies; how different strains work on the body; and what, exactly it is doing to our brains. But good research takes time . For now, here’s what we know about pot and its impact.

    Short-Term Changes

    The major player in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol . When a person smokes, THC gets into the bloodstream quickly, where it activates receptors that are part of our natural endocannabinoid system. THC basically floods this system, which can lead to hallucinations and reduced anxiety. In some people, it can also lead to negative feelings, such as distress, anxiety, and depression.

    A central point of marijuana’s short-term impact, emphasizes McSherry, is that there is no physical harm done to the brain.

    Long-Term Use

    The Promise of Medical Pot

    Conditions Of The Heart

    Many of those problems manifest physically, not just psychologically. Healthline explains that since marijuana smoke consists of a number of toxic chemicals , long-term exposure to smoking can damage the bronchial passages and the lungs. Regular pot smokers are more likely to have persistent coughs, have some trouble breathing, and produce excess phlegm and mucus from their throats. In fact, the Journal of General Internal Medicine writes that what marijuana smoking does to respiratory health has some significant similarities to that of tobacco smoking.

    Out of the respiratory system, THC exits the lungs and enters the bloodstream, where it moves throughout the body. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cautions that the chemical can increase the heart rate by as many as 50 beats per minute, which can last as long as three hours. Smokers who have heart disease could be at a greater risk of heart attack. Research from the Journal of the American Heart Association suggests that regular marijuana use can not only contribute to the possibility of a heart attack, but also to heart rhythm disorders and stroke, even in young people who have no other risk factors for heart disease.

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