Long-Term Effects of Cannabis on the Brain

Effects of Cannabis

The question has been on everyone’s lips for some time now: What exactly are the long-term effects of cannabis on the brain? Sadly, scientists have been unable to study it thoroughly until now. Legal barriers to research are no longer a problem, as weed is now legal in most states. Reliable clinical data on long-term marijuana use is rare, though, and the data currently available causes more confusion, not less.

Cannabis and Its Effects on the Brain

What we now know about weed’s effect on the brain is very interesting. Scientists are still busy reaching solid conclusions about cannabis and its long-term effects on the mind. Because there are so few conclusive and substantive clinical trials, it is very difficult to make any serious claims about the long-term effects of consuming marijuana and any health associations. However, this is what we do know:

1. Increased Tolerance

Beginning just as you start really enjoying your weed and ending when, or if, you eventually stop, your body and brain develop a tolerance for it. Over time, your brain gets used to the effects of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. When this happens, the high that you feel is not nearly as intense as it is when you smoke your very first joint and the several subsequent ones.

This tolerance happens when certain cell sites downregulate. These cell sites, called cannabinoid receptors, start desensitizing to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as well as to other cannabinoids found in marijuana plants. The same happens when you consume other substances, such as caffeine, opiates, nicotine, and insulin.

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For example, in Type 2 diabetes cases, blood sugar becomes consistently elevated, which in turn increases the body’s need for more insulin, a hormone that triggers fat storage by turning excess sugars into fat cells. Once insulin increases, the body becomes less sensitive to it. Instead of transporting all of it, these receptors leave more sugar circulating in the blood, eventually causing high blood sugar.

The same happens with marijuana. The more you consume the less sensitive your cannabinoid receptors will be to THC. They will downregulate their functioning to ignore THC to a notable degree, making you less sensitive to the effects of pot over time. To get as stoned as you used to be when you first started, you will need to consume more cannabis, and more and more.

Fortunately, tolerance itself is not a long-term consequence. Once you abstain from using marijuana altogether or at least cut back on your consumption, evidence indicates that receptor sensitivity will increase rapidly. After quitting weed for some time, some folks find themselves having difficulty sleeping, or they are moody and groggy when these receptors start focusing on THC again.

2. Decreased Concentration among Adolescents

There is much debate about whether cannabis causes brain changes among teenagers in the long-term. A pair of studies analyzing identical twins back in 2016 shows that there is no link between weed use and long-term decline in IQ. In the murky world of population study, researching twins is highly sought after among scientists.

Studying twins enables researchers to understand better the differences between genetic factors and environmental triggers. In these particular studies, scientists concluded that although cannabis-consuming twins scored lower in IQ tests, so did their non-using siblings over time. The authors concluded that some environmental factor was causing the long-term decline in cognitive function.

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However, there are correlations in other studies. One conducted in 2014 found a link between chronic consumption during adolescence and changes in the brain’s white matter, which could cause difficulty with impulsivity and concentration. Participants who started consuming after their 16th birthday did not share these results. This study suggests a connection between the two, but not that pot is responsible.

3. Risk of Psychotic Disorders

Some evidence exists to suggest that anyone predisposed to some mental health issues should rather stay away from marijuana entirely. Although science cannot prove that weed alone is the cause of schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders, several studies indicate that heavy cannabis use may be associated with the early development of them.

Just as interesting is the evidence showing that adult pot lovers specifically, not teenage ones, with psychotic conditions, may experience notable cognitive improvements in comparison to healthy controls. However, scientists do confess that it may be possible for those with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, to have a higher genetic susceptibility to heavy marijuana use instead.

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No evidence exists to prove conclusively that cannabis has any harmful effects on the brain in the long-term. Instead, it seems to highlight the obvious fact that those with pre-existing issues may find marijuana more tempting than everyone else does. As always, the key to healthy consumption lies in moderation. If you frequently order cannabis online, then take a break from it every so now and again.



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Comments (2)

  1. Avatar for Marc Marc June 11, 2018 / 10:22 am / Reply

    Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing

  2. Avatar for Roland Roland June 13, 2018 / 2:00 am / Reply

    Good information. Thanks for this writeup!

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