Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
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Friday, October 31, 2014

This is your brain on drugs

I'm veering off of my usual topics to post a link to an article I read on the NYT website today.  I believe we should have laws that criminalize the use of marijuana for a variety of reasons - mostly to protect children and young adults.  I have heard the arguments that kids will get the drug anyway, but legalizing it takes it a step further.  Newer research is showing what serious, long-lasting harm the drug can do. No matter how you feel on the subject of marijuana legalization, I hope you find this interesting.

This Is Your Brain On Drugs 
New York Times, October 29, 2014   By Abigale Sullivan Moore

Excerpts - Read the entire article on the NYT website.

Dr. Gilman was reviewing a composite scan of the brains of 20 pot smokers, ages 18 to 25. What she and fellow researchers at Harvard and Northwestern University found within those scans surprised them. Even in the seven participants who smoked only once or twice a week, there was evidence of structural differences in two significant regions of the brain. The more the subjects smoked, the greater the differences.

But it has long been known that, with the brain developing into the mid-20s, young people who smoke early and often are more likely to have learning and mental health problems. Now researchers suggest existing studies are no longer sufficient. Much of what’s known is based on studies conducted years ago with much less powerful pot.

All smokers showed abnormalities in the shape, density and volume of the nucleus accumbens, which “is at the core of motivation, the core of pleasure and pain, and every decision that you make,” explained Dr. Hans Breiter, a co-author of the study and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern’s medical school.  

Similar changes affected the amygdala, which is fundamental in processing emotions, memories and fear responses.  

What is already known is that in casual users, THC can disrupt focus, working memory, decision making and motivation for about 24 hours.  "The fact that we can see these structural effects of THC are longer lasting than we previously thought," said Dr. Gilman, an instructor in psychology at Harvard's medical school. 

Image Description:A Harvard-Northwestern study has found differences between the brains of young adult marijuana smokers and those of nonsmokers. In these composite scans, colors represent the differences — in the shape of the amygdala, top, and nucleus accumbens. Yellow indicates areas that are most different, red the least.Credit The Journal of Neuroscience

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