June 14th, 2017 | ASAH Team
The relationship between illicit drugs and the human brain is quite complex. Of all such illegal drugs, marijuana is one of the most popular drugs across the world that affects the brain in myriad ways. Some of the reports have highlighted that approximately four in 10 Americans have consumed marijuana at least once in their lives. Besides being widespread among the users due to its recreational purposes, it has also triggered a number of debates pertaining legalization because of its medicinal uses.
While some drugs may trigger their effects on the brain from the first shot, others may exert its effects steadily after a prolonged period of time. Different drugs have different effects on the brain. Drugs like opioids have the capability to alter the brain’s chemicals in a short span, while psychoactive drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) or marijuana display the consequences after a long duration.
Marijuana, popularly known as pot or weed, contains about 60 different chemicals that are responsible for altering the brain’s chemicals dramatically. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main chemical in marijuana responsible for triggering psychoactive effects, affects a person’s mood, sleep, memory, thinking, concentration, coordination, appetite, etc.
According to the Potency Monitoring Project, the average THC content of marijuana has increased from less than 1 percent in 1972 to 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s. However, the number has soared to 13 percent in the recent times. Due to such an increased potency, it is quite difficult to determine the short- and long-term effects of marijuana. Being classified as a Schedule I drug, it has a high chance for abuse. Although there are several fluctuating results arising out of different studies, imaging studies of marijuana have shown inconsistency in the outcomes.
Several studies suggest an association between altered connectivity and reduced volume of the specific regions, such as hippocampus, in the brain in adolescents. These regions are involved in an array of functions, such as memory, learning and impulse control, compared to others. Besides impairing the ability to form new memories, marijuana also affects the level of dopamine in the brain.
Moreover, marijuana can cause functional impairment in cognitive abilities. However, the extent of impairment depends on factors, such as age, duration of marijuana abuse and amount of marijuana consumed. Depending on the quality, quantity and the method of consumption, the kind and level of the effects of marijuana experienced may vary. Although there are no concrete evidences pertaining to the permanent damages to memory and concentration among marijuana, a strong link has been found between marijuana abuse and respiratory problems, schizophrenia, etc.
Marijuana can trigger the same section of the brain that is targeted by harder substances like heroin, cocaine and alcohol. And like alcohol, caffeine, sugar or opioids, cannabinoids too can alter the balance of dopamine in the brain, thereby producing a sense of relaxation.
It can also cause a heightened sensory perception, wherein the user can witness vivid colors or hear sounds louder. The drug can also cause “munchies,” an altered perception of time and increased appetite. While marijuana can produce a heightened mellow state for some, it can also cause extreme agitation, anxiety, insomnia or irritability in some, while coming down from that euphoric state. Other effects of marijuana use depending upon the strength and duration of the drug used include:
Dr. Damon Raskin, Internist and Diplomat of the American Board of Addiction Medicine, suggests that marijuana use can impair learning capabilities and can cause severe damages to the not so fully developed brains of teenagers. Moreover, the chronic use of marijuana is associated with altered personality, judgment and reasoning skills.
If you or someone you know is battling with the devastating effects of substance abuse like marijuana, contact the Arizona Substance Abuse Helpline counselors to get the details of the best treatment and therapy centers across Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-857-5777 or chat online to access information about the substance abuse treatment centers in Arizona.