MARIJUANAS EFFECT ON THE BRAIN
Of all the health and drug issues that have been debated throughout the years, the subject of marijuanas effect on the brain has ranked right towards the top. Controversy about this exotic looking plant reached a high fever during the pop culture era of the 1960’s and has continued right up to the present day. A news broadcast might include a segment about a prominent government official, who admits that he or she smoked marijuana back in their college days. The same broadcast might include a story about cancer patients who are using the drug to alleviate the effects of chemotherapy. Some further examination is in order to make sense of all this.
It was during the 1960’s that THC, the main ingredient of marijuana, was identified. It would be nearly 20 years later however, that the marijuanas effect on the brain would be discovered. These sites, named cannabin receptors or CB receptors, determine how the brain cells communicate in regards to sending, receiving, and processing messages. When a person uses marijuana, THC can quickly attach itself to the cells that regulate incoming information. This can throw the entire system out of balance. THC’s effects can include feelings of euphoria, slower reaction time, altered thinking skills, and altered sensitivity to pain.
Now, with that information in hand, are there are good positive points to be made for using marijuana? From a medical view, the potential to relieve pain in patients suffering from cancer and help those with seizures have fewer episodes are strong selling points. In 2013, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reversed his previous views on marijuana after he completed a documentary on the drug, called WEED. He concluded from his research that the medicinal benefits of using marijuana for patient treatment is significant. For some patients it is “the only thing that works”. What a lot of people don’t realize is that doctors and scientists have been studying the medical uses of marijuana since the 19th century and up until the 1940’s, it was used to treat neuropathic pain.
Medical researchers have found that the chemical CBD in marijuana can help prevent cancer cells from spreading. The use of medical marijuana helps alleviate the two major side effects of chemotherapy, nausea and pain. It may also be helpful in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, can lessen the pain of Multiple Sclerosis, and can help with autoimmune disorders like Lupus.
Still, despite all this encouraging health information, the United States Food and Drug Administration still labels marijuana as a Schedule I Drug. It’s classified as a controlled substance, but controlled research and studies have to go through agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Almost no one will argue that the immediate marijuanas effect on the brain for the casual user are of concern. The THC can keep our thoughts and perceptions in a fixed state and can affect our coordination. Engaging in activities that require a high level of concentration like driving should be avoided while the drug is in the body. The drug doesn’t affect every person the same, so not every behavior can be predicated. Individuals who are prone to anxiety and panic attacks could actually find their symptoms becoming worst after marijuana use, despite the drug’s reputation for inducing a feeling of calm. One thing is certain, the drug does not have the same capacity for hardcore addiction as other drugs such as cocaine and heroine.