++ Common Sense for Drug Policy ++
Scientists Studied the Brains of Pot Smokers..
and the Results Don't Look Good
By Eileen Shim April 16, 2014
The news: Every day, the push toward national legalization of marijuana seems more and more inevitable. As more and more politicians and noted individuals come
out in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing different amounts of pot, the mainstream acceptance of the recreational
use of the drug seems like a bygone conclusion. But before we can talk about legalization, have we fully understood the health
effects of marijuana?
According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Harvard and Northwestern studied the brains of 18-
to 25-year-olds, half of whom smoked pot recreationally and half of whom didn't. What they found was rather shocking: Even
those who only smoked few times a week had significant brain abnormalities in the areas that control emotion and motivation.
"There is this general perspective out there that using marijuana
recreationally is not a problem - that it is a safe drug," said Anne Blood, a co-author of the study. "We are seeing that this is not the case."
Similar studies have found a correlation between heavy pot use and brain abnormalities, but this is the first study
that has found the same link with recreational users. The 20 people in the "marijuana group" of the study smoked four times a week on
average; seven only smoked once a week. Those in the control group did not smoke at all.
"We looked specifically at people who have no adverse impacts from marijuana
— no problems with work, school, the law, relationships, no addiction issues," said Hans Breiter, another co-author
of the study.
Using three different neuroimaging techniques, researchers then looked
at the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala of the participants. These areas are responsible for gauging the benefit or
loss of doing certain things, and providing feelings of reward for
pleasurable activities such as food, sex and social interactions.
"This is a part of the brain that you absolutely never ever want to touch," said Breiter.
"I don't want to say that these are magical parts of the brain - they are all important. But these are fundamental
in terms of what people find pleasurable in the world and assessing that against the bad things."
Shockingly, every single person in the marijuana group, including
those who only smoked once a week, had noticeable abnormalities, with the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala showing changes
in density, volume and shape. Those who smoked more had more significant variations.
What will happen next? The study's
co-authors admit that their sample size was small. Their plan now is to conduct a bigger study that not only looks at the
brain abnormalities, but also relates them to functional outcomes. That would be a major and important step in this science
because, as of now, the research indicates that marijuana use may cause alterations to the brain, but it's unclear what that
might actually mean for users and their brains.
But for now, they are standing behind their findings.
"People think a little marijuana
shouldn't cause a problem if someone is doing OK with work or school," said Breiter. "Our data directly says this
is not so."
This does not mean marijuana should not
be decriminalized, as it is quite possible that this INCREASES consumption. It just means that the information needs to be
spread that marijuana is not the “natural, harmless, teddy bear drug” as it is commonly regarded in many quarters.
Smoking extremely strong
cannabis can lead to “significant” brain damage,
a King’s College London study suggests. Reuters report via RT: 11/27/2015
The study, published in the journal Psychological
Medicine, found that “skunk” cannabis damages the corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibers that
allows communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres. The illegal drug contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol
(THC), the chemical responsible for the high users receive.
use of the substance can lead to more harm, according to the research. Frequently smoking the drug could trigger mental health
issues, hallucinations and slow down brain activity. Researchers examined 56 patients who reported having had a psychotic
episode and 43 healthy volunteers. The average age of healthier participants was 27 while the average age of psychotic patients
Lead researcher Dr Paola Dazzan, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience
at King's College London, said: “We found
that frequent use of high potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibers in the brain, whether
you have psychosis or not. This reflects a sliding scale where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage
will be.” Co-author Dr Tiago Reis Marques said: “This white matter damage was significantly greater among heavy users of high potency
cannabis than in occasional or low potency users, and was also independent of the presence of a psychotic disorder.”
Commenting on the findings, freelance journalist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett said legalizing the drug would give users
“far greater control and choice” over the strength of what they smoked.