Your Health and You: Ways Marijuana Affects the Brain.

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( Many people think that weed is no big deal. With many countries either decriminalizing or legalizing its use and the introduction of the recreational dispensary, it may seem that marijuana is always safe to use. However, there have been few rigorous scientific studies on its effects. There is evidence that it can have negative effects on some users. We’ll look at some of the ways in which marijuana affects the brain. But first, let’s look at how it works.

General Effects of Cannabis

Cannabis contains at least 60 chemical compounds called cannabinoids which affect the receptors in the brain. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the chemical which is responsible for most of the effects including the much sought after high. THC is similar to anandamide, a cannabinoid which occurs naturally in our brains. It regulates appetite, sleep, mood, and memory.

Cannabinoids magnify thoughts and perception and keep users fixated on a particular idea. They also affect the level of dopamine in the brain, leading to a feeling of relaxation. Both these effects can make it difficult to focus on work, drive or take part in activities that require lots of coordination.

Marijuana Can Increase Anxiety and Affect Short-Term Concentration and Memory

Not everyone gets a feeling of euphoria or relaxation after using marijuana. Those who have anxiety or suffer from panic attacks may find that marijuana makes their symptoms worse. This is a result of the THC. Marijuana may increase anxiety if it’s used in an unpleasant situation or if the user is trying to hide that they’re using it. It’s also possible that it can be relaxing in the short term but cause anxiety with long-term use.

Meanwhile, a review of research published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that marijuana reduced attention and concentration in light users. However, it didn’t seem to affect regular or heavy users within six hours of using it. Researchers also found that in the long run, subjects’ concentration and attention returned to normal after three weeks or more since last using marijuana.

Researchers also didn’t find any long-term effects on working memory.  One study found that memory impairment in heavy users lasted for up to 7 days after using marijuana. By the 28th day, their memory wasn’t significantly different from those who hadn’t used marijuana.

Cannabis Can Affect Learning in Teenagers

One thing to note regarding the above research is that the impact of marijuana use can be different in young users. The human brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25 or 26. Marijuana can, therefore, impair learning in teenagers. Chronic use can also cause changes in reasoning skills, judgment, and personality. Teens may also be at greater risk for mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Adolescents are also twice as likely as adults to become addicted to marijuana.

Marijuana can have varying effects on the brain. Many factors are involved including the strain of cannabis, the way it is ingested, how much is ingested and the length of time over which it is used. It is also clear that the age of the user plays a significant role. There is room for even more research.

Staff Writer; Bobby Moore