Marijuana: science reveals its long-term effects on the brain

The use of marijuana is a widespread practice today, Being one of the most consumed drugs.

While socially it was considered a soft drug comparable to alcohol and with relatively little risk in its use (in fact, it has some interesting properties that make it very useful medicinally in various diseases and disorders) frequent use of this drug can have significant long term negative effects, especially the brain and its structure.

Of course, that does not mean that it is a very dangerous drug comparable, for example, to heroin. However, the defense that has been made against the allegedly harmlessness of its consumption is difficult to defend today, as we will see.

    What is marijuana?

    marijuana this is one of the many ways cannabis is consumedSpecifically, one that uses the leaves and stems of the chopped and crushed plant. This substance has psychoactive properties known since ancient times, having been used for medicinal and recreational purposes since then by different peoples. Today, its consumption is widespread all over the world, especially for recreation and recreation, and is even legalized in some places under certain conditions.

    It is a substance the first effects are slightly stimulating and euphoric, to continue to induce states of physical and mental relaxation. It causes a decrease in the level of tension and pain, increases the feeling of hunger and reduces and slows down motor movements. It is also effective as an antiemetic and an anticonvulsant.

    The effects of this product are well known in the short term. However, there is more discussion about its long term effects of marijuana, With often contradictory results depending on the type of study that was conducted. However, today evidence suggests that its regular use leads to increased deterioration in brain health over time.

    Long-term effects of marijuana

    While cannabis, especially in its form of marijuana, is a widely known substance, studies of its effects have always been surrounded by great controversy. Much research has been carried out in this regard, in some cases with unclear results, on the results of its consumption. However, various research has shown that its consumption can have long-term effects on the brain and behavior.

    It is important to note that we are talking about cases in which the consumption is made frequently over time. The effects in question they depend on the age and time of neurological development at which consumption begins, As well as the time during which this consumption took place.

    1. Reduction of the orbitofrontal cortex

    One of the research findings is that continued use of marijuana causes an obvious reduction in gray matter, especially in the orbitofrontal cortex. It also means less long-term ability to perform tasks that depend on this area, like impulse control or scheduling.

    2. Increases neural connectivity

    However, many regular users of this substance exhibit apparently normal behavior after many years of using marijuana. The reason is that according to other studies, despite the reduction of gray matter in the brain, connectivity between the remaining neurons is increasedSo this loss is somehow compensated.

    That is, although under normal conditions an increase in neural connectivity would be good news, in this case it is the result of the death of many neurons, Making others “work”; it is a mechanism of the brain to try to compensate for the loss of thickness of the bark. In addition, this increase in connections decreases as the consumption time increases.

    3. Decreased performance and memory capacity

    Different studies show that regular cannabis use can eventually lead to a decrease in the intellectual capacity of subjects, with inferior performance and results in different tests compared to a non-user. However, in this type of cognitive competition, there were many contradictory results, which means that this phenomenon may be insignificant.

    There is strong evidence that the use of marijuana produces long-term problems in various types of memory. For example, these alterations cause greater difficulty in transmitting content from short-term memory to long-term memory.

    It is important to note that these effects are particularly noticeable in people who use throughout their developmental process, i.e. adolescents, due to the structural change in the brain that can lead to cannabis use. . In adults already trained who begin to consume, this decrease is less.

      4. Does it promote hippocampal neurogenesis?

      One of the most widely reported positive effects of cannabis is the ability to promote cannabis formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, Region of the brain involved in processing memories. Indeed, one of the medicinal applications of cannabis takes advantage of this factor and the fact that it decreases the formation of betaamyloid protein in order to contribute to the fight against certain disorders that cause progressive degeneration of the hippocampus.

      However, we recently saw that this happens in laboratory rats used to perform experiments, but not in humans: in our case, the birth of new neurons in the hippocampus is practically non-existent in adults.

        5. It can produce psychotic flare-ups

        While this is not the case in all cases, some cannabis variants may facilitate the onset of psychotic epidemics in people with a genetic predisposition to them, especially when use in adolescents begins. This is due to the fact that early consumption prevents the proper neuronal maturation of the connection between the prefrontal and limbic system, which facilitates the onset of hallucinations and makes it difficult to control behavior and inhibit it. In some cases, this can alter the expression of schizophrenia.

          6. Decreased impulse control

          Another of the effects observed and directly related to the decrease in gray matter in the frontal cortex is decreased impulse control. The ability to inhibit behavior is related to specific parts of this lobe, which is responsible for counteracting the power of the limbic system, related to emotions and the onset of desires.

          Bibliographical references:

          • Colizzi, M., Iyegbe, C., Powell, J., Blasi, G., Bertolino, A., Murray, RM and Di Forti M. (2015). Interaction between DRD2 and AKT1 genetic variations on the risk of psychosis in cannabis users: a case-control study. npj Schizophrenia 1, 15025 doi: 10.1038 / npjschz.2015.25.
          • Dennis, CV, Suh, LS, Rodriguez, ML, Kril, JJ and Sutherland, GT (2016). Human neurogenesis in adults through the ages: an immunohistochemical study. Neurophatology and Applied Neurobiology, 42 (7); pages 621 to 638.
          • Filbey, FM; Aslan, S .; Calhoun, VD; Spence, Jeffrey S .; Damaraju, E .; Caprihan, A. and Segall, J. (2014). Long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain. PNAS. flight. 11; 47. Brain health center. University of Texas.
          • Jiang, W .; Zhang, Y .; Xiao, L .; Van Cleemput, JM; Ji, SP; Bai, G. and Zhang, X. (2005). J.Clin.Invest. 115 (11); pages 3104 to 3116.
          • Volkow, ND, baler, RD, Compton, WM, Weiss, SRB (2014). Adverse health effects of marijuana use. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370, pages 2219-2227.

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