Recent study links marijuana use to structural brain changes

 

 

Post  prepared by Amanda Baker, Drexel University College of Medicine Class of 2014

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A study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Harvard researchers have linked casual marijuana use to structural changes in distinct areas of the brain.

These areas, the nucleus accumbens and amygdala, and are largely involved in recognition of reward, motivation, fear, and memory.  In this study, the brain scans of 20 young adult casual marijuana users were compared to those of 20 young adult non-users.

While the results clearly demonstrated significant structural differences between the two groups, the structural changes have not been correlated with consequences in mental or physical functioning.  In other words, researchers aren’t entirely sure of the impact of these brain changes.

 

Casual marijuana use may damage your brain

The debate regarding the use of marijuana medically and recreationally is ongoing in the United States.

Although the Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) categorizes this drug as Schedule I, “with currently no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”, many argue that there is, in fact, much benefit to medical marijuana, especially in comparison to other sedating pain medications.

This is reflected in 21 state laws which have legalized medical marijuana to varying degrees.

Last summer, Dr. Sanjay Gupta completed a documentary “Weed” highlighting the benefit of medical marijuana:

However, some states such as Washington and Colorado, have gone one step further by legalizing marijuana for both recreational and medical use.

Given the ongoing research on the effects of marijuana, perhaps this new study will call into question continued legalization of the most widely used recreational drug in America.

 

Click here to find out more.

 

Neurology of Methamphetamine Abuse, “Feliz Breaking-Bad”!

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Methamphetamine was legally prescribed in injectable form in the US in the 1930-50s as a central nervous stimulant, antidepressant and appetite suppressant (for weight loss).

It became a widely abused prescription drug in the 1960’s, before it became more tightly regulated by the government in the 1970s.

That  is when illegal manufacturing and distribution really started to take off in the US.

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In the 1980s a new crystalline form of methamphetamine, which could be smoked, found it’s way into the US, and quickly started to replace cocaine as the illicit stimulant of choice among drug users.

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Whether snorted, smoked, or injected, methamphetamine rapidly crosses the blood brain barrier where they cause sustained increases in the extracellular concentrations of monoamine neurotransmitters such as  dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

With repeated use in both humans and experimental animal models, methamphetamine depletes the brain’s stores of monoamines,  contributing to methamphetamine’s high abuse potential – without the drug, users may have an impaired ability to experience pleasure (anhedonia), slipping into a deep depression

Dopamine and serotonin neurons project widely throughout the brain influence a variety of behaviors and functions. Up to 40% of chronic methamphetamine users have memory loss,  impulsive behavior and impaired decision-making.  Continued drug abuse can lead to depression and psychosis.


One interesting aspect of chronic methamphetamine psychosis is the delusion of parasitosis or formication – commonly known as “meth mites”, this is a frequent complaint in heavy daily users of methamphetamine, and can lead to self mutilation:

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AMC’s award winning TV drama Breaking Bad is a well-written and entertaining show that accurately depicts the consequences of moral turpitude and drug abuse:

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However, the show also had it’s lighter movements, here’s our Christmas tribute, Feliz Breaking-Bad or Christmas Meth!: