Just Like Heroin and Cocaine, Heavy Use of Marijuana Can Affect Brain Functioning

Heavy usage of heroin and cocaine has been blamed for deteriorating functions of the brain; however, marijuana can also cause similar effects, new evidence points.

In the last decade or so, there has been a great push in major regions for marijuana to be legalized. In fact, more and more states and countries have already passed bills that make it legal to use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. This is after years of research revealed that the dope substance could improve bodily functions as well as health.

Many people turn to marijuana scientifically known as cannabis sativa for relaxation, dealing with depression, and also improving alertness. Some doctors also prescribe this substance to their patients as part of therapeutic healing. It is not only the ordinary user that is pushing for the legalization of marijuana but doctors and other medics as well. MarijuanaCC

According to Dr. Anissa Abidargan who works at the Columbia University Medical Centre in New York, people have been focusing more on the beneficial effects of marijuana and treating it differently from other drugs considered to be illegal such as heroin and cocaine. The use of cannabis is becoming more widely accepted unlike other drugs classified in the same category.

Latest scientific findings unfortunately are casting doubt of the beneficial effects and suggesting that similar to other dope drugs, marijuana also has negative effects on the brain functioning. For a user to experience those pleasant feelings, marijuana stimulates a reward chemical in the brain known as dopamine. However, prolonged use also negatively affects dopamine.

In collaboration with other Columbia University Medical Centre researchers, Abidargan have published a report in the latest Molecular Psychiatry journal that shows marijuana blunts the release of dopamine and may lead to poor functioning of the brain. This effect is mostly witnessed during the initial phase of addiction to the drug.

The study targeted 11 mature adults aged between 24 and 40 years who were already dependent or addicted to marijuana. The average age when most of the participants started using the drug was 16 years and many were already dependent by the time they turned 20. The target group had used the substance one month prior to the study and had been smoking the drug daily in the last 7 years.

The cognitive performance, attentiveness, working memory and learning tests were done on the participants before being confined in a hospital where they had no access to the drug for one week. Later on, the group was tested to see any changes. It was discovered that the release of dopamine had dropped in nearly all of them and their attentiveness, working memory, learning and cognitive performance had also declined.