If you’re using marijuana on a regular basis, it’s possible that you’ve experienced long-term damage to your reward center. The chronic use of marijuana has been shown to reduce the natural reward process that process that occurs. Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas, and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, demonstrated that the area of the brain associated with rewards showed a greater level of activity when presented with the prospect of cannabis than with other rewards. The alterations that became apparent in MRI scans demonstrates that the recreational drug has the potential to become addictive and has some potentially negative effects associated with long-term use.
Marijuana in American Culture
Marijuana serves as one of the most popular and common illicit drugs used in America. As an increasing number of states legalize its use for both recreational and medical purposes, it is becoming more prevalent in the culture. A certain degree of social acceptance is beginning to form around the drug. Much like alcohol, at-risk individuals can end up abusing the drug. When this happens, professional help is usually required to kick the habit.
New Marijuana Research
Marijuana has long been touted as a safe drug that doesn’t have the sort of addictive properties that other, more extreme drugs possess. However, this new research indicates there is still more to learn about marijuana use and addiction. The alterations could serve as a marker that indicates when an individual is moving from recreational use to dependence. Participants in the study were shown visual images related to cannabis use and images the participants selected of a preferred fruit. The cannabis-related cues showed an increase in the reward center. Typically, when speaking about the reward center, doctors are referring to the orbitofrontal cortex, striatum, anterior cingulate gyrus, precuneus and the ventral tegmental areas.
The problem with prolonged use is that the research indicates that individuals aren’t making a conscious decision to smoke the weed. Since individuals begin to associate positive feelings with the drug, at-risk individuals may develop an overwhelming compulsion to smoke. When this happens, the user loses control over the compulsion to smoke. Although, they may rationalize to themselves that they can stop smoking at any time and that they aren’t actually addicted. However, it appears that the need to smoke the weed is a real compulsion that may need intervention by addiction professionals to treat.
This research indicates that the mesocorticolimbic reward system is activated. This system uses several brain regions to release dopamine, which is a powerful neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward center. It seems clear that marijuana disrupts the reward system and discovered that individuals had a preference for cannabis, but more disturbingly, it overwhelmed the desire for fruit. This is problematic because fruit has long been considered a natural and strong feature of the brain’s reward system.
Researchers point out that the greater the interference of the natural reward pathways in the brain, the more likely an individual is to show signs of personal distress in their family and professional lives. When the use of the drug starts to supersede normal everyday functioning in order to enjoy the drug, it’s considered a problem by professionals who work in addiction and recovery.
Non-users didn’t show increased activity in the reward center of the brain, and they showed a normal response to fruit. The study also accounted for other contributing factors, including the use of other drugs and a history of traumatic brain injury.
Other studies have demonstrated that long-term marijuana use may reduce an individual’s verbal memory and the ability to quickly process new information. As more information and research is conducted, additional issues may rise the surface. If you’re having trouble prioritizing aspects of your personal life in favor of using the drug, it may be time to start thinking about getting help for an addiction.
Hope is Around Corner
People who experience marijuana addiction may not always be able to admit there is a problem. The effects of long-term use may diminish the ability of an individual to make sound choices about-about their life and health. When a drug or activity begins to take precedence over other parts of your life, it indicates a reason to be concerned. Smoking marijuana instead of paying the bills, going to work and spending time with family indicates that the drug is having a detrimental effect on your quality of life.
Marijuana has been used successfully to treat a wide variety of problems, including nausea, anxiety and pain. However, long-term use can have negative effects on your mental health. If you’re suffering from an addiction, it’s important to take the first step and admit that you need help for your addiction. An addiction doesn’t mean you’re weak-willed or unable to cope with life. Addictions are very powerful. With the help of trained professionals, it’s possible to get your life back and beat your addiction.