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Marijuana & the Brain






Many believe Marijuana to be a relatively harmless substance and there are those supporters who have convinced themselves that there are health benefits attached. In reality, Marijuana impairs cognitive functioning, memory, perception and judgment and, in many cases, can result in the development of psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations & delusions & ultimately Schizophrenia.   

The Marijuana plant contains 400 chemicals. Sixty (60) of these are ‘cannabinoids’ which are produced inside the body when metabolized. These cannabinoids are ‘psychoactive’, the most potent being ‘tetrahydrocanibol’ (THC). Once in the lungs, THC quickly enters the bloodstream where it is transported throughout the body, attaching to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Certain areas have these receptors, others have few or none. Those with the highest density of receptors are areas involved in or influence ‘coordinated movement’, ‘memory’, ‘concentration’, ‘perception’ (sensory & time), ‘pleasure’ & ‘thoughts’. The human brain makes its own cannabinoids in the cerebral cortex as part of the regulation of neurotransmission for cognitive stasis. Cannabinoids are steroids and are necessary for a multitude of biochemical and neurological functions. These functions are seriously affected by the smoking or ingestion of THC. Long term use and abuse can lead to permanent abnormalities & withdrawal can result in serious adverse effects. In more recent times, researchers have uncovered a neurotransmitter called ‘Anandamide’ to whose receptors THC binds. ‘Anandamide’ is strongly linked with ‘working memory’; with further studies suggesting influence in areas relating to eating & sleeping and pain relief. Strangely, ‘chocolate’ has been connected to ‘anandamide’, in its contents and its effect on the neurotransmitter, though it would take approximately 30kgs of chocolate to produce any effect remotely similar to that of MJA..


 How Cannabis works



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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
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