Marijuana Changes The Brain Even With CASUAL Use
by Ned Wicker
Malcolm Ritter, the science writer for the Associated Press, reported that a recent study showed signs of brain changes in casual marijuana smokers. Now on the surface, all of the marijuana advocates will dismiss this study as just another negative attack on their drug of choice, but it’s really not a new finding at all.
Motivation and ability to experience emotions are the parts of the brain being harmed.
The AP story said the users were casual, not addicted and the participants showed no signs of being in trouble. The study showed that two areas of the brain were affected, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens. These areas are associated with emotions and motivation. The more a person used marijuana, the more evidence there was in these two areas.
The subjects in the study were compared to non-marijuana users. While the study may not have any impact on pot fans around the country, Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the study was among the first to focus on the recreational users, most of whom will claim without reservation that marijuana is harmless.
One of the inherent problems with past research is that it did not show consistent results. That could be due to the test itself, or flaws in the methodology, but this most recent test may be the beginning of greater research that will render solid results.
According to the AP story, “The 20 pot users in the study, ages 18 to 25, said they smoked marijuana an average of about four days a week, for an average total of about 11 joints. Half of them smoked fewer than six joints a week. Researchers scanned their brains and compared the results to those of 20 non-users who were matched for age, sex and other traits.” Those who smoked showed the brain alterations.
The study was just the beginning, as Volkow says larger studies must follow to include the moderate users. The question becomes, “Does the marijuana use cause anatomical brain changes?” At present, there is nothing to suggest that casual or moderate use is going to harm the rain at all.
Even if a larger scale study is done, and no matter who does it, the pro marijuana crowd will immediate dismiss any evidence, no matter how substantial, that marijuana is harmful, if that is what is learned. It’s like the pro-tobacco lobby denying under oath to congress that nicotine is addictive. Folks will believe what they want to believe, regardless of the truth, regardless of the documentation, regardless of anything.
Brains are altered before dependence.
One scary little detail of the study was noted by brain researcher, Krista Lisdahl of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who added, "I think the clear message is we see brain alterations before you develop dependence.” Her studies have rendered similar results, and while on the surface this doesn’t seem like a big finding, the changes in the brain that are brought on by marijuana use, or the use of any other substance, need to be acknowledged.
The pot-smoking celebrations in states that have legalized marijuana will no doubt continue, but the research that is coming is very likely to have some chilling news for those who deny any possible harm from marijuana.