A New Study on Marijuana’s Effect on the Brain

A primary concern for many opponents of marijuana legalization is the impact on the brain, especially for teens and young users. New research provides an in-depth look at how marijuana effects the brain. According to an article published in The New York Times detailing research completed by the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Center for Addiction Medicine, an increased denseness in the pleasure center of the brain indicates that the brain may adapt to marijuana exposure. Some theorize this “rewiring” suggests the brain has a reward system that begins to demand the drug.

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According to the report, researchers reviewed composite scans of the brains of 20 pot smokers between the ages of 18 and 25. Evidence suggested even those who smoked one or two times a week experienced key differences in two areas of the brain. The structural differences in the brain were even greater the more a subject smoked.

Marijuana use has been showed to reduce pain, improve appetite and help to combat symptoms related to diseases including epilepsy, cancer, PTSD and a host of others. Despite these benefits, many critics point out that recreational use can have a deleterious impact on the brain. Previous research showed that those who smoked pot at a young age were more likely to have learning and mental health issues.

Critics of marijuana legalization assert high rates of THC can have a damaging effect on the brain and is associated with paranoia and psychosis. Health-related issues have also led to some emergency room visits associated with marijuana use. Plus, there is a claim that today’s version of the drug contains a higher potency of THC, as compared to the marijuana available decades ago. This increase could accelerate addiction, they say.

Although the results of the research weren’t positive for marijuana advocates, the fact that the study occurred at all is an achievement in itself. For years, the federal government has put a halt to all marijuana research, which required special permission because of legality issues with regard to obtaining the drug.

Our Orange County marijuana law attorneys know that the lack of research is what has led the courts to deny requests to reclassify the drug from a Schedule I (most dangerous, with no medical benefit) to something less severe. So it’s been a catch-22.

We believe marijuana has been of great benefit to a large number of people – including children suffering from serious disease. The more research conducted that can help us build upon our knowledge, the better.

Regardless of your position related to marijuana law, it is important to know your rights. We are experienced in representing dispensary owners, users, and others involved in the marijuana business. We can assist business owners to ensure compliance with California law, as well as protect defendants charged with state or federal drug crimes.

When it comes to the impact of marijuana on the brain, we anticipate the research will be ongoing. Medical professionals are concerned about the acceleration of addiction through high THC strains.

The concern about addiction is also rising as states consider the legalization of marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. One of the concerns is that legalizing marijuana will make it more accessible and prevalent among teens. The recent study showed that all users had abnormalities in the shape, density, and volume of their “nucleus accumbens,” also known as the core of motivation and of pleasure and pain, which can motivate every decision you make. Researchers also found that the subjects had changes in their “amygdala,” the part of the brain fundamental in processing emotions, memories, and fear triggers.

Medical professionals assert that THC can disrupt focus, memory, decision making, and motivation for 24 hours after use. They also suggest that regular use of marijuana can permanently impact these parts of the brain.

Still, the research was preliminary and small, requiring additional and ongoing research in the future to determine the true relationship between brain function and behavior.

These are valid concerns that should be more thoroughly explored, and also balanced with the well-established benefits of the drug.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

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, July 9, 2014, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog