Seven ways cannabis can affect the brain
Cannabis is becoming mainstream in the US and around the world. And while cannabis is known to be a relatively harmless drug, researchers are increasingly learning about its possible effects on the brain.
Some of the main active ingredients in Marijuana Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol (THC & CBD) have been shown to affect cognitive function through their interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ENC).
The endocannabinoid system (ENC) has many receptors in the brain that regulate balance, coordination, reaction time, posture, mood, and cognitive functions. The compounds in cannabis can bind to receptors in the brain and cause a variety of effects from hallucinations to nibbles.
Since cannabis has been largely a controlled substance for the past 100 years, not much research has been done on it.
It is relatively new that studies are beginning to show the depths of the effects this potent drug can have on the brain.
The “devil’s salad” is often denigrated as a gateway drug that kills your brain cells, causes schizophrenia, impaired memory, decreased fertility and, in rare cases, causes psychotic episodes. However, scientists studying the drug have found links between cannabis and various health benefits, such as pain relief and the potential to help with some forms of epilepsy and dementia.
There seems to be some confusion as to whether cannabis is good or bad for the brain. So in this article, we’re going to try to examine the real effects of consuming it on your brain.
A marijuana high usually lasts two or three hours. During this time you can experience a multitude of effects in different intensities. Most noticeable is an increased sense of clarity and perception. The colors look livelier. Sounds seem clearer, as if we had improved our eyesight and hearing. Skin receptors are also affected.
We become more aware of hot or cold temperatures and our pressure receptors become more sensitive. You may become aware of normally automatic, unconscious muscle tension, small movements, feedback and control processes, and feelings of physical comfort and discomfort.
These are all relatively short-lived experiences, but they can vary greatly from person to person. Every time you get high, you may experience slightly different sensations depending on your mood and environment. Even if you are aware of the changes in perception, it can affect your response to marijuana and your perception of the experience.
When marijuana is first used, these sensory changes occur sequentially rather than all at once. When we notice a sensory change, this in turn draws our attention to other changes such as time warps. It is useful for those who want to experience marijuana for the first time to prepare for it and follow some Tips for smoking weed the first time.
You will get the nibbles.
A 2015 study in mice suggested that marijuana can affect certain neurons in the brain that are responsible for suppressing appetite, making us feel more hungry than satisfied. An effect that may explain why people often feel very hungry after smoking marijuana. In the study, the researchers stimulated the rodents ‘appetite by manipulating the same cellular pathways that marijuana affects in the brain, and then observed what happened to the rats’ brains during the experiment.
The scientists predicted that neurons that normally suppress appetite would turn off by stimulating the rodent’s appetite. Contrary to their expectations, however, it turns out that these neurons are actually activated because they in turn released hunger-inducing chemicals.
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One of the main reasons people use medical marijuana is to control pain. A major effect of the cannabinoids includes a disruption of the antinociceptive effect and an antihyperalgesic effect of cannabinoid receptor agonists against inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
This should come as no surprise, as cannabis has been used to relieve pain around the world for centuries.
The potential medical uses of cannabis in the treatment of painful muscle spasms and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis are currently being tested in clinical trials.
Impaired neural connectivity
MRI images of teenagers’ brains show that those who use marijuana routinely have impaired neural connectivity in regions of the brain associated with a number of functions such as memory, learning, and impulse control.
However, a study published in November 2014 in the National Academy of Sciences looked at 62 people who did not use marijuana and 48 adults who used the drug at least three times a day, over an average of eight or nine years.
This study showed that those who smoked daily for at least four years had lower levels of gray matter in a region of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex. However, their brains also showed greater connectivity, which is a general measure of how well information moves between the different parts of it.
The main psychoactive component of marijuana (tetrahydrocannabinol) is believed to play a role here, as it has been shown to affect many of the cannabinoid receptors in the orbitofrontal cortex that are involved in appetite, memory, and mood.
IQ and memory
Studies have shown that teenagers who smoke cannabis are more likely to experience declines in IQ as they age. In a large longitudinal study in New Zealand of more than 1,000 people, the researchers gave participants two IQ tests at ages 13 and 38. Participants were asked about their drug use throughout the study.
Approximately 5 percent of the teenagers in the study started using marijuana as teenagers. The results showed that those who smoked at least four times a week and continued to smoke marijuana had an average drop in IQ of eight points at the end of the study. Those who did not use marijuana heavily until adulthood did not lose any IQ points.
It’s not clear why marijuana use could have a negative impact on IQ, but teenagers may be more prone to the effects of marijuana on brain chemistry. This is likely because their brains are still developing. Research shows that young, frequent cannabis users have thinner temporal and frontal corticesThese are both areas that help handle the memory function. Memory is an important aid to learning and learning that could be the link between cannabis use and IQ loss in young marijuana users.
Early research also shows that cannabis can have beneficial effects on neurodegenerative diseases that affect memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and epilepsy.
A 2017 study by researchers at California’s Salk Institute found evidence that cannabinoids like CBD may help remove dementia from brain cells and improve their connections. This could be the effect of CBD reducing the effects of inflammation, oxygen build-up, and brain cell depletion.
With cannabis later in life (50 years and over) seems to have only a moderate influence on cognitive functions, including memory. When researchers used components of cannabis, they found that it could slow or even prevent the progression of these diseases.
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Cannabis and psychosis
Several studies have shown that smoking marijuana increases your risk of mental illness. Psychosis is a medical term for symptoms of loss of contact with the real world, such as hallucinations or delusions.
In an April 2016 issue of Biological Psychiatry, a link was also found between marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis. “Overall, epidemiological studies provide sufficient evidence to suggest to the public that marijuana use increases the risk of psychosis,” the authors wrote in their review.
A 2007 study by Deepack Cyril D’souza looked at cannabinoids and psychosis.
It has been shown that cannabinoids can cause acute transient psychotic symptoms or acute psychosis in some individuals.
It was unclear why some people were prone to cannabinoid-related psychosis. However, it has also been found that cannabinoids can exacerbate psychosis in individuals with an established psychotic disorder, and these exacerbations can persist beyond the period of intoxication. However, the vast majority of people exposed to cannabinoids do not suffer from psychosis or schizophrenia. Schizophrenia rates have not increased in line with the increase in cannabis use rates. Hence, cannabis exposure is believed to be a major cause that interacts with other factors, such as a genetic risk of causing schizophrenia. This is clearly an area that needs further investigation.
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Cannabis and the brain’s reward system
According to a recent study, the brains of people who have smoked for years may react differently to certain rewards than those of people who do not take the drug. In this study, the researchers wanted to find out whether the brains of 59 long-term marijuana users reacted differently to photos of smoking objects than to objects that were viewed as “natural rewards” (for example, their favorite fruit).
The scientists found that participants who smoked for an average of 12 years showed, on average, greater brain reward system activity when looking at pictures of smoking objects, such as hookahs or joints, than when looking at pictures of their favorite fruit. In contrast, the results published in the journal Human Brain Mapping in May 2016 showed no greater activity in this brain region when non-smokers in the control group were shown objects related to marijuana.
Dr. Francesca Filbey, Associate Professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas, said, “This study shows that cannabis disrupts the brain’s natural reward circuits, making it very important for people who use the drug regularly.” Dallas said in a statement.
What can we conclude from this?
There are still a lot that we don’t know about how marijuana use affects the brain over short or long-term periods of time. What we know for sure is that cannabis use can adversely affect adolescent brain development.
The widespread perception of cannabis products as substance abuse has held back studies on the benefits of the cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana.
An important breakthrough was the early discovery of the endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS), which sparked renewed interest in the field.
As cannabis becomes legalized in more and more places, the previously widespread beliefs about cannabis as a vice have been challenged. We are now beginning to see the much-needed research developing.
This will give us a better understanding of how the various compounds that make up cannabis interact with different functions of the brain so that we can harness the properties of cannabinoid compounds for therapeutic purposes.