Did you know that cannabis affects your brain?
According to recent research, cannabis consumption has a variety of advantages and disadvantages to your brain. All of these benefits and effects depend on many factors, e.g. your age or whether or not you have any pre-existing conditions.
The findings were a product of a series of studies. The results of these studies were featured in last year’s annual gathering of the Society for Neurosurgeons in San Diego, California.
They revealed that exposure to cannabis before birth or during the teen years can have a lasting impact on your brain.
Some of the negative effects that could be encountered were disruption of the process of learning and memory as well as communication between different parts of the brain. Furthermore, it disrupts metabolic compounds as well as the levels of chemical messengers.
But there’s also a positive side to early exposure to cannabis; one of the compounds in the cannabis plant improves memory for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Marijuana use on the rise
The cannabis plant is known to have hundreds of compounds. Among these are over 100 cannabinoids that disrupt the release of messenger chemicals in the nervous system and in the brain.
According to research, marijuana is the most popular illicit drug in the United States. A nationwide survey showed that 22.2 million people aged over 12 years reported having used cannabis at least once in the past month. In this demographic, the number of people who have used the drug in the past month rose steadily, from 6.2% to 8.3% between 2002 to 2015.
This shows that an increasing number of people are using the substance for either recreational purposes or for its medicinal value. Over the years, cannabis has been proven to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and many other long-term conditions.
However, that cannabis has medicinal value and that the States has relaxed most of the laws prohibiting it, doesn’t mean that there have been conclusive studies to point out its exact benefits and harms.
Studies shed new light
The six studies released in last year’s meeting shed some light on the long-term effects of cannabis in our lifespan.
The studies revealed that:
- when unborn rats were exposed to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they were less resilient in battling stress in later life;
- furthermore, when the animals reached adolescence, they exhibited reduced memory and learning ability showing that cannabis affected the development of their brain circuits connected to these two areas;
- adolescent rats that had been exposed to cannabis showed increased activity in brain circuits that control the formation of habits;
- in adolescent rats, there were alterations to the development of specific parts in the brain that control decision-making, planning, and self-control;
- adult mice that were exposed to cannabis for long-term use showed signs of change in connectivity and metabolism in parts of the brain that regulate learning;
- mice that had Alzheimer’s disease showed signs of memory improvement when they were treated with THC. According to scientists, this could shed new light on human therapy for those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Need for better understanding
From what we have seen above, cannabis usage can potentially have some negative effects — especially to the unborn in pregnant women. This is an important discovery given that cannabis is a popular drug for some women during their pregnancies.
Most cannabis users started experimenting with the drug dusting their adolescent years when their brains were most vulnerable to disruptions. However, new studies also showed that cannabis use can create some added benefits.
According to Dr. Michael Taffe of the Scripps Research Center in LA Jolla, CA, the use of cannabis could have medical benefits in some situations. However, he cautioned that there’s a need for pregnant women, teens and chronic users to understand the negative impact of consuming cannabis for a long time.