The Effects of Cannabis on the Brain

The effects of cannabis on the brain are many. Not only does it generate addiction through a neuronal process, but also modifies the structure of brain tissue.
The Effects of Cannabis on the Brain

Last update: 06 June, 2021

The effects of cannabis on the brain are many and are due to its ability to interact with neuronal receptors that humans already possess. These aren’t there for the purpose of interacting with this highly addictive substance though.

Cannabis is one of the most consumed drugs worldwide. It’s legal in some countries under certain conditions, while others have no regulation outside of prohibition.

In either circumstance, scientific studies indicate that cannabis affects the brain in various ways, modifying the structure of neurons and corrupting the learning process. As you’re about to see in this article, this research warns about the future effects of the consumption of this drug.

The problem is many young people think the effects of cannabis are mild and that its recreational use won’t lead to major consequences. They’re convinced that its sporadic use is harmless.

That is why the use of cannabis is now so widespread. Those who start using it seldom wonder whether cannabis affects the brain or not. This is because most are looking for the immediate satisfaction the drug provides, under the assumption that there’s no harm. They’re wrong.

What’s cannabis?

This is its generic name and can lead to confusion. Thus, the plant is different from the drug obtained from it, the active compound that interacts with neurons, and its other derivatives.

The name of the plant is Cannabis sativa. It has multiple components but tetrahydrocannabinol or THC has a high psychotropic capacity. In fact, it has an affinity for human neurons and their receptors.

One can obtain marijuana from the plant, the most widely consumed substance in terms of recreational drugs. It’s basically the dried leaves and flowers of Cannabis sativa.

You can also obtain hashish and hashish oil from the plant. The process is more complex and involves the distillation or heating of the plant to reach the boiling point. Hashish is much more potent than marijuana and contains up to 50% THC.

Various forms of cannabis.
Marijuana comes from the Cannabis sativa plant and THC is its most significant component.

One of the effects of cannabis in the brain is that it changes it

Cannabis use leads to addictive behavior, as the substance causes changes in the brain’s reward circuitry. Generally speaking, THC gives satisfaction and requests more of it to maintain that state.

Addiction is based on how this drug affects the brain. It’s often to such an extent that it causes withdrawal syndrome, one of the criteria for classifying addictions as such. This syndrome appears when a person interrupts the use of the substance.

Withdrawal from marijuana is usually mild and benign in terms of withdrawal symptoms, but no less significant. The addicted person who doesn’t use the drug for a while experiences insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. The symptoms disappear if they consume THC.

Furthermore, cannabis doesn’t only affect the brain in terms of addiction. In fact, scientific research confirms that THC is neurotoxic (it intoxicates the neurons). There’s evidence of a link between marijuana and the development of psychiatric diseases, for example.

These changes are detrimental in chronic users of marijuana because of the brain changes. It impairs memory and attention to the point that they forget recent episodes. Some actually disappear entirely from their memory circuit.

Cannabis also alters some motor movements and this is linked to the effect of THC on neurons responsible for regulating motor skills. Finally, anxiety states are another consequence of how cannabis affects the brain.

An atrophied brain.

Neurons that aren’t connected by cannabis

Scientific studies assert that THC modifies and stops the ability of neurons to change. This process is neuroplasticity, and it’s fundamental to learning processes.

This is because the brain can incorporate new knowledge through neuroplasticity, by making neuronal connections that didn’t exist before. We have no cognitive memory without this internal capacity.

When evaluating the effect of THC in rat brains, researchers noted the substance acts in the hippocampus and reduces the balance of proteins used to learn new things. This, transferred to human beings, and especially to young people, is a great warning about its consumption and the degeneration of learning.

Thus, cannabis affects the brain, and this repercussion is serious in terms of learning. Not to mention other learning processes that use the same circuit, such as training for a specific sport or developing cooking skills, or those required for doing manual activities.

The effects of cannabis greatly affect the brain and it’s isn’t a mild drug

The worrying success of marijuana lies in the advertising messages that have positioned it as a harmless drug. Well, it isn’t. Its effects are harmful to the brain, learning processes, and memory. This is a serious addiction and even more so if we consider that young people are its most common consumer.

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