The ongoing debate about the benefits versus the side effects of marijuana continues as new research has just revealed that even casual use of the drug is enough to cause significant brain abnormalities.
The study, which was conducted by psychiatrist and mathematician, Hans Breiter, involved a sample of patients between the ages of 18 and 25 - half of which were cannabis users and half of which were non-users. The habits of the group who smoked marijuana varied from a couple times a week to everyday use and what was found was that the more often the drug was smoked, the greater the brains differed from those who never used it.
Breiter’s research concluded that the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens were the parts of the brain where the abnormalities were the most prevalent. These are the two regions that are responsible for processing emotions, making decision and fuelling motivation.
Damage to these parts of the brain is often responsible for a number of mental illnesses including anxiety disorders, paranoia, bi-polar and depression. It is not yet known what happens to users who stop using the drug, whether or not early intervention makes a difference and how the brain changes over longer periods of time with sustained use.
Although marijuana is illegal in the UK, in last year’s crime survey for England and Wales it was found that cannabis is the most commonly used drug with 6.4% of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in the last year. There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not the drug should be legalised but it is highly likely that Breiter’s findings will work in favour of those who are opposed to this happening.
If you think that you could suffer from cannabis addiction or are worried about someone you know, you can find out more information about the signs, symptoms and the treatments available at Life Works. To learn more about cannabis you can also check out our Cannabis Knowledge Centre.