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Smoking Marijuana Reshapes Your Brain

Smoking Marijuana Reshapes Your Brain

Given the status of the refer revolution that seems to be taking place in many places across the country as a result of the pot policy reforms that have been shaping up since the November midterm elections, it should seem relevant that people be more aware of the impact that this particular drug can have on the individuals using it.

Marijuana is credited as the most commonly abused drug in the United States, with an estimate of about 2 out of every five 5 Americans reporting that they smoke marijuana, with 10% of the population attesting that they use marijuana on a daily basis. Now this may sound like refer madness, but a recent study claims that teens who smoke weed for just 3 years could indeed damage their long-term memory, and can even reshape your brain.

Marijuana on the Mind

When marijuana is smoked, it is almost instantly absorbed into the blood stream and travels to the brain. THC binds with cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which appears to alter mood and cognition through its actions on the receptors it binds to. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence various functions, including memory.

Newly completed research developed at the Northwestern University in Chicago examined a group of people in their early 20s who had used pot daily for around 3 years in their teens. Researchers utilized computerized brain-mapping scans in this study and they found some troubling patterns, including:

  • Participants had an abnormally shaped hippocampus, a region of the brain that is crucial to memory retention.
  • Participants performed 18% worse on long-term memory tests than people of similar age range who had never used the drug.
  • The study also examined the impact of teen marijuana use on young adults with schizophrenia and found that they performed 26% worse on memory tests than young adults with schizophrenia who had never smoked pot.

Professor John Csernansky of Northwestern was a co-leader on this study went on to go into a little more detail about the impact this has on an individual and stated that,

“The memory processes that appear to be affected by cannabis are ones that we use every day to solve common problems and to sustain our relationships with friends and family,”

Previous research by the same team has linked poor short- term and working memory performance to abnormal shapes of three other brain regions including:

  • Striatum
  • Globus pallidus
  • Thalamus

There may also be a correlation between length of marijuana exposure and memory loss, since researchers saw the most change in the hippocampus among participants who had used the drug for more consecutive years. Still, it remains uncertain whether marijuana is the direct cause of these effects. According to Dr. Mathew Smith who was a co-author of this study,

“It is possible that the abnormal brain structures reveal a pre-existing vulnerability to marijuana abuse,”

Now that being said, Dr. Smith still suggests that the evidence implies that the participants who were abusing marijuana for a longer period of time had greater the differences in hippocampus shape, which proposes that marijuana may actually be the cause. Still more research has to be done to decipher whether or not this is the case.

Trouble for Teens Using Weed

In another study published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry other researchers came to numerous conclusions about the accountable impact on teens using marijuana, which suggested young people who use marijuana experience several negative impacts from prolonged marijuana use:

  • Are 18 times greater chance of marijuana dependence
  • Are on average 8 times more likely to use other illicit drugs later in life
  • 7 times more likely to attempt suicide, although the researchers did note that evidence was not sufficient to support a theory that there is a direct link between marijuana use and suicide.
  • Adolescents who use marijuana daily are over 60% less likely to complete high school or obtain a degree compared to those who have never used marijuana.

Weed Withdrawal

Too many people do not realize the reality behind addiction, especially when it comes to weed. A drug is a drug, and addiction is a very real illness. There is a list of weed withdrawal symptoms for those who become habitual users, including:

  • Sleep disturbances: Insomnia, nightmares, vivid dreams, using dreams, trouble falling asleep
  • Drug craving
  • Mood swings: from depression to anger to euphoria and back again
  • Nervousness, restlessness, loss of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss and weight gain
  • Digestion problems, such as cramps, or nausea after eating
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of sense of humor
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Shakiness and dizziness

While all this may seem a little exaggerated, this is very real. While marijuana becomes more accepted in this country for medicinal purposes, and pot advocates are in full force, the certainty of how early drug use can effect young people’s growth should always be acknowledged.

Marijuana affects the brain, like every other drug, and one of those effects can be a development of a serious issue with dependency. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588


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