Too Much Pot Causes Dopamine Deficits in the Brain | Is Dopa Rush the Answer?
Posted on April 20 2017
Millions of Americans will smoke a joint on Thursday, April 20 at “420” celebrations, the code name in cannabis culture for a celebration to light up at 4:20 p.m. This is one party where pot revelers should not overdo it, as new research indicates that smoking too many joints could cause lasting cognitive impairment.
The latest research has found a connection between excessive cannabis use and decreased dopamine levels in the brain, which could lead to impaired memory, attention and problem-solving abilities. A new study published in Molecular Psychiatry found evidence of a “compromised dopamine system” in heavy pot smokers, with significantly lower dopamine levels for those heavily dependent on cannabis.
“In light of the more widespread acceptance and use of marijuana, especially among young people, we believe it is important to look more closely at the potentially addictive effects of cannabis on key regions of the brain,” said Anissa Abi-Dargham, M.D., a professor at Columbia University Medical Center and an author of the paper.
Researchers looked at adults between the ages of 21 and 40 who were severely dependent on cannabis, and a group of healthy control subjects. Positron emission tomography (PET) was used to examine the level of dopamine released in the striatum of heavy pot smokers. The striatum is a region of the brain that is involved in working memory, impulse behavior and attention. Compared to the controls, the cannabis users had significantly lower dopamine release in the striatum, including areas involved in associative and sensorimotor learning. “Long term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behavior,” Abi-Dargham said.
The neurotransmitter dopamine has many vital roles influencing divergent functions within the human body that range from mental acuity, psychological well-being and overall vitality. Previous studies have shown that addiction to other potentially abusive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, have similar effects on dopamine release— but evidence linking cannabis to lower dopamine release has been lacking until now.
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