In recent years, the acceptance of marijuana has grown and grown. New laws are constantly being introduced in the United States and abroad legalizing the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana and its extracts in various forms.
There is growing research alongside anecdotal evidence showing the positive effects that marijuana could have when it comes to certain medical conditions.
One of the areas in which positive benefits have been discovered is the brain. However, for many years, people believed that regular marijuana usage was bad for the health of your brain.
It is time to look at the available evidence and see what the case actually is, and see what effect regular consumption of marijuana will really have on the brain.
It is definitely a complicated subject, and studies are still in the early stages, meaning that it could be another couple of decades before the true effects of marijuana usage on the brain are known.
What does the endocannabinoid system (ECS) have to do with marijuana and the brain?
There are many different compounds that make up marijuana, but there are two compounds in particular that receive the most attention.
THC is the compound which is the main driver of the psychoactive properties of marijuana, and it is what causes the high feeling in the brain.
CBD has come to prominence in recent years as it has been linked with having numerous health benefits and it is being used as an alternative treatment for all sorts of different conditions.
The ECS refers to the cannabinoid system in the body, which is integral for numerous vital body functions. It is made up of a set of cannabinoid receptors which are found throughout the body, including in the brain, peripheral nervous system, and central nervous system.
It helps with mood regulation, physiology, appetite, sensation of pain, memory, and general levels of health. The main act of the ECS system in the body is that of homeostasis, which is the maintenance of an internal environment that is healthy and stable.
The endocannabinoid system has helped researchers understand how the consumption of cannabis affects the body.
There are two predominant receptors in the body for cannabinoids, which are called the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The CB1 receptors are usually seen in the nervous system and the brain, but they can also be identified in the likes of connective tissues and various organs. These are the predominant receptors for the THC compound, as well as anandamide – a cannabinoid which occurs naturally in the body.
It is through the activation of the CB1 receptors by THC that the psychoactive effects of marijuana are produced.
The CB2 receptors are usually seen as part of the immune system and are the key to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis. It is believed that one of the major factors in a lot of different medical conditions is inflammation, with CB2 providing an immune response to it.
THC therefore has a significant impact on the brain due to its psychoactive properties. THC may be able to heighten people’s creativity levels, focus and thought amplification.
There is not much of a link between CBD and either of the main receptors in the body. It instead appears to stimulate the body in a more indirect manner, as it is a suppressant for an enzyme which actively breaks down anandamide.
Getting the correct level of THC in the body
The way in which the brain or body as a whole is going to be affected by cannabis varies largely depending on the specific person. Often, a big role is played by the person themselves, the dosage of THC that is used, and the method in which it has been consumed.
Different dosages have different effects for different people. THC has even been known to have a biphasic effect, which means that at low doses, the effects of THC may be different than if the same person person takes a high dose of THC.
In more basic terms, this is the reason why a person will have a feeling of relaxation when they take smaller doses of THC and suffer from paranoia when they take a higher dosage. This is why it is generally advised that a newcomer starts with lower doses and works their way up to a level that is optimal rather than trying to use higher doses straight off the bat.
Short term effects of cannabis on the brain
As mentioned, THC is similar to a compound produced naturally in the brain called anandamide, which is a regulator of appetite, memory, sleep and mood. When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids will help the neurons in the brain to fire, leading to enhanced thought.
Some cannabinoids are also similar to other stimulants such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol in that they can have an effect on dopamine levels which are seen in the brain, sometimes leading to a feeling of euphoria or intense relaxation
Marijuana consumption’s effect on the brain in the long run
While the studies looking at the role and effect of regular marijuana consumption in the long term are still in their early stages, there are a few things that researchers have learned about this relationship.
Usually, the short-term effects will be over within a few hours of consumption, but people are often concerned about what the long-term effects may be in the following months and years. There is no concrete evidence that shows regular marijuana usage over time will cause a long-term negative effect on concentration or memory levels.
While there may be some impairment in the immediate aftermath of consumption, these seem to be eliminated after a few short hours.
There is also the fact that marijuana is a lot less addictive to the brain than other things such as nicotine, alcohol, and various pain medications. Depending on how much marijuana you consume and how often, you will not necessarily experience withdrawals if you stop consuming cannabis.
One key aspect that does need to be noted, however, is the role that marijuana usage has on a developing person. Studies have shown that there could be potential long-term negative impacts on the developing brain for teenagers who regularly consume marihuana.
This is why it is best that these age groups avoid consuming marijuana as much as possible in case there are significant long-term effects that regular consumption of marijuana could have on the brain and the body as a whole.