Study Finds Signs of Brain Changes in Pot Smokers

Apr 18, 2014

A small study of casual mar­i­juana smok­ers has turned up evi­dence of changes in the brain, a pos­si­ble sign of trou­ble ahead, researchers say. The young adults who vol­un­teered for the study were not depen­dent on pot, nor did they show any marijuana-related prob­lems. “What we think we are see­ing here is a very early indi­ca­tion of what becomes a prob­lem later on with pro­longed use,” things like lack of focus and impaired judg­ment, said Dr. Hans Bre­iter, a study author. Longer-term stud­ies will be needed to see if such brain changes cause any symp­toms over time, said Bre­iter, of the North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity Fein­berg School of Med­i­cine and Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown mixed results in look­ing for brain changes from mar­i­juana use, per­haps because of dif­fer­ences in the tech­niques used, he and oth­ers noted in Wednesday’s issue of the Jour­nal of Neu­ro­sciences. The study is among the first to focus on pos­si­ble brain effects in recre­ational pot smok­ers, said Dr. Nora Volkow, direc­tor of the National Insti­tute on Drug Abuse. The fed­eral agency helped pay for the work. She called the work impor­tant but pre­lim­i­nary. 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. The results showed dif­fer­ences in two brain areas asso­ci­ated with emo­tion and moti­va­tion — the amyg­dala and the nucleus accum­bens. Users showed higher den­sity than non-users, as well as dif­fer­ences in shape of those areas. Both dif­fer­ences were more pro­nounced in those who reported smok­ing more mar­i­juana. Volkow said larger stud­ies are needed to explore whether casual to mod­er­ate mar­i­juana use really does cause anatom­i­cal brain changes, and if so, whether that leads to any impair­ment. The cur­rent work doesn’t deter­mine whether casual to mod­er­ate mar­i­juana use is harm­ful to the brain, she said. Murat Yucel of Monash Uni­ver­sity in Aus­tralia, who has stud­ied the brains of mar­i­juana users but didn’t par­tic­i­pate in the new study, said in an email that the new results sug­gest “the effects of mar­i­juana can occur much ear­lier than pre­vi­ously thought.” Some of the effect may depend on a person’s age when mar­i­juana use starts, he said. Another brain researcher, Krista Lis­dahl of the Uni­ver­sity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said her own work has found sim­i­lar results. “I think the clear mes­sage is we see brain alter­ations before you develop depen­dence,” she said. AP Med­ical Writer Lind­sey Tan­ner in Chicago con­tributed to this report. Source: Asso­ci­ated Press (Wire) Author: Mal­colm Rit­ter, Asso­ci­ated Press Pub­lished: April 16, 2014 Copy­right: 2014 The Asso­ci­ated Press

73b1c8a2e2cancer.jpg 150x89 Study Finds Signs of Brain Changes in Pot Smokers

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Study Finds Signs of Brain Changes in Pot Smokers

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