Is Marijuana harmful to the brain?

In Nigeria, terms like Marijuana, hemp, ganja, and pot, cannabis is also referred to by terms such as kaya, wee-wee, igbo, oja, gbana, blau, kpoli and abana.

Today, marijuana’s therapeutic benefits are widely acknowledged, and some nations have legalized its medical use.

In 1970, The United States classified marijuana as a schedule 1 drug; the strictest designation possible, and it was completely illegal and had no recognized medical uses as of that time. For decades, this view persisted. Now, here comes the big question.

Is Marijuana Consumption Bad for Your Brain?

Marijuana acts on the body’s cannabinoid system, which has receptors all over the brain and body. Molecules native to the body, known as endocannabinoids, additionally act on those receptors. We don`t definitely apprehend the cannabinoid system, however it has one feature that offers a huge clue to its function.

Most neurotransmitters travel from one neuron to another across a synapse to transmit a message. However, endocannabinoids move in the opposite direction. When a message is passed from one neuron to another, the receiving neuron releases endocannabinoids. Those endocannabinoids travel backward to influence the sending neuron, essentially giving it feedback from the receiving neuron. 

This leads scientists to believe that the endocannabinoid system serves primarily to modulate other kinds of signals, amplifying some, and diminishing others.

Endocannabinoid feedback slows nerve signals. However, this does not necessarily mean delaying action or awareness. 

Marijuana contains two major active compounds: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is thought to be primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana on behavior, cognition, and perception, whereas CBD is responsible for the non-psychoactive effects. Like endocannabinoids, THC binds to cannabinoid receptors and slows signal transduction. 

However, it binds immediately to receptors throughout this vast diffusion system, while endocannabinoids are released at specific locations in response to specific stimuli.

This broad activity, coupled with the fact that the cannabinoid system indirectly affects many other systems, means that each individual's specific brain chemistry, genetics, and previous life experiences largely determine how they perceive drugs. This is more true for marijuana than other drugs that act in more than one specific way. So, when it comes to harmful effects, it varies greatly from person to person. 

Although we don't know exactly how marijuana has certain harmful effects, but there are clear risk factors that can increase peoples’ likelihood of experiencing them. 

The most obvious risk factor is age. Cannabinoid receptors are more concentrated in the white matter in people younger than 25 than in people over 25. White matter is involved in communication, learning, memory, and emotions. Frequent marijuana use can interfere with the development of white matter pathways as well as affect the brain's ability to make new connections.

This can impair long-term learning and problem-solving skills. It is not yet clear how severe this damage is and whether it is recoverable. And even among young people, the younger someone is, the higher the risk. For example, a 15-year-old is much higher than a 22-year-old.

Marijuana can also cause hallucinations or paranoid fantasies. Known as marijuana psychosis, these symptoms usually resolve when you stop using marijuana. However, in rare cases, the psychosis does not subside and reveals a persistent psychotic disorder. Although a family history of a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, is most evident, it is not the only risk factor for this effect. It's worth noting that marijuana-induced psychosis is also more common among young people, but psychotic disorders generally appear in this age group anyway.

What remains unclear in these cases is whether the psychotic disorder occurred without marijuana use. Whether marijuana use is triggering prematurely, catalyzing an otherwise insurmountable turning point, or whether the marijuana reaction is simply a symptom of an underlying condition. Perhaps the role of marijuana differs from person to person.

As with many other drugs at any age, the brain and body become less sensitive to marijuana after repeated use, which means higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect. Fortunately, unlike many other drugs, there is no risk of fatal marijuana overdose, and even excessive use does not cause debilitating or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms when you stop using it. 

However, there are subtle forms of marijuana withdrawal, including sleep disturbances, irritability, and depressed mood, which resolve within a few weeks of quitting smoking.

So, is marijuana harmful to the brain? 

It all depends on who you are. However, while some risk factors are easily identifiable, others are not well understood. This means that even if there are no known risk factors, negative consequences are likely.

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