Every marijuana consumer should know the effects of cannabis on the brain
Marijuana can have both short- and long-term effects on brain development and functionality.
In fact, researchers are still studying and discovering the different ways marijuana use temporarily and permanently alters and impacts the brain.
With the debate over cannabis legalization heating up globally, it’s increasingly important to find out exactly how the drug affects the human body. So far, after decades of studies, most claims are simply based on correlations rather than causes.
Studying the drug was also difficult for some time, given its prohibited status. However, with some countries and states in the United States legalizing the plant, expect more research producing conclusive results on marijuana’s effects, both negative and positive.
Based on what’s available now, we can draw some links between cannabis and some brain reactions. Some of these effects are correlated enough with cannabis use that claiming cause doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Although a lot of positive effects have been claimed, cannabis does, in fact, have some negative effects on the human brain, hence its prohibited status. Like other substances that were once prohibited — alcohol, for example — cannabis has its negative sides.
But in comparison to other once-prohibited substances, perhaps the negative effects aren’t that significant — at least not enough to warrant an outright ban, hence the trending legalization movement of today.
Regardless of what side of the debate you find yourself, it’s important to know exactly what you are consuming or advocating for others to consume legally. Some effects are positive, some are negative Here are some of the short-term and long-term effects of cannabis on the brain are listed below:
Short-term effects of marijuana on the brain
When people smoke cannabis, the drug enters the bronchial tubes through their mouth and enters into the bloodstream in a few seconds. Then, it enters the brain. As it spreads throughout the body, chemicals in cannabis start binding with the endocannabinoid system, causing a series of short-term effects on the brain.
- Reduces anxiety
Many studies suggest that smoking cannabis can significantly reduce depression, anxiety, and stress in the short term. Its effects in this regard are due to the calming experience the drug creates. However, repeated use of the drug can lead to a long-term reduction of symptoms and increase depression over time.
- Relieves pain
Marijuana is an increasingly popular and widely adopted alternative to traditional pain-relieving medications. It has been used to treat a wide range of painful conditions, from headaches to the pain of childbirth, since ancient times. Marijuana advocates claim that cannabis also helps relieve the pain in AIDS and cancer patients. There are also claims that cannabis may prevent or slow the growth of some cancer cells.
- Damages motor control ability
Consuming cannabis affects cortico-striatal networks that are responsible for producing movement. A majority of studies have revealed that regular use of cannabis can impair cognitive functionality of our brain. It can adversely affect motor impulsivity, driving performance and motor inhibition.
- Increases craving for junk food
To spread awareness about cannabis laws among Hempfesters, police attached the rule to bags of Doritos. They capitalized on the long-believed fact about marijuana that it boost cravings for junk food, also known as “the munchies”. A 2001 study revealed that activating cannabinoid receptors in the hypothalamus, a part of our brain, may cause the release of leptin and neuropeptide Y — these hormones stimulate appetite. (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877694/)
- Elevates heart rate
Studies have revealed that there is 4.8 times higher risk of heart attacks in the hour after consuming cannabis compared to the hour before. The increase in heart rate after smoking cannabis is most likely to occur when THC activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
Long-term effects of marijuana on the brain
A growing number of evidence from animal and human studies indicate that cannabis exposure during brain development can cause long-term or, sometimes, permanent adverse effects on the brain. Some of them are:
- Disrupts brain development
Our brain can be molded and developed throughout our lives. However, it particularly develops during the periods between the months before birth and the 21st birthday. Smoking cannabis during this period could change the development of the brain.
- Interrupts the ability to learn
Many scientific studies have found that heavy cannabis use as a teenager can reduce IQ points that may not be retained in adulthood. According to a study, people who started smoking marijuana four times a week as teenagers experienced an average IQ drop of eight points by mid-adulthood.
- Can lead to cannabis addiction
Marijuana addiction means you need to use it to feel normal. It affects your mind in the way that you start thinking about this drug a lot and spend a lot of time and your energy trying to get it. You prioritize it over other important things in your life. If you get addicted to marijuana, it can become difficult to quit it, and you may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Marijuana addiction can cause swings in your mood, emotions, and sleeping.
- Impairs ability to control emotions
Though there have been many claims that cannabis reduces depression and anxiety, it can actually worsen it for some people. Marijuana withdrawal may induce symptoms of depression and anxiety and can also increase symptoms of mental health concerns.
- Increases risk of psychosis
Cannabis consumption may correlate with increased symptoms of psychosis, including paranoia or hallucinations. People with generic vulnerabilities to these diseases are often at higher risks of developing psychosis following cannabis use.
Using marijuana products with high potency THC, such as cannabis edibles may increase the risk of more significant mental health concerns such as psychosis.
Prohibited substances are prohibited for a reason. Alcohol was once banned in some countries because of its impairing effects on the human brain and body. Cannabis is no different, as governments around the world are concerned about its negative effects on the brain, resulting in the drug being banned in the vast majority of nations.
However, cannabis’ negative effects seem minimal when compared to other drugs and substances, both legal and illegal. In fact, recent developments have resulted in the acceptance of marijuana’s medical benefits. Its calming effects on the human body have resulted in the plant being used as a pain reliever, stress reducer, and treatment for anxiety. There have even been claims of its ability to reduce or even prevent cancer cell growth.
However, the negative effects are also there and must be addressed. This is especially so, given the current legalization debate that has already led some countries and states to legalize the drug. Such legalization is beneficial because it gives researchers more access to the drug to discover, with certainty, its effects on the human body and brain. Regardless of what side of the debate you’re on, it’s important to know the effects of cannabis, both negative and positive.