“That’s dope” is an oft-used expression amongst today’s youth. Dope can be in the form of weed or marijuana. In an act that has become recklessly common across the country, people are turning to marijuana to have a “good time.” It’s not only about having a few drinks and hanging out with buddies anymore. Now, the people are looking for kicks offered by “Mary Jane,” as it’s popularly called.
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are around 22.4 million marijuana users in the United States. This makes marijuana the most commonly used illicit drug in the country. In a study conducted in November 2016 by Prof. Oliver Howes of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Center at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and his team, it has been observed that marijuana or cannabis can decrease the dopamine levels in a person’s brain.
The team conducted a series of tests about how the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), affects the brain. Their observations have been published in the journal Nature.
Marijuana and its effects on mental health
Marijuana has a number of side effects, most of which are directly related to the human brain itself. It has been linked to mental health conditions such as anxiety, schizophrenia and depression. The study by Prof. Howes gives evidence to suggest that long-term exposure to THC can lead to decreased dopamine levels.
Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter in the brain which is responsible for emotion, movement and action as well as motivation and reward. Low dopamine levels can potentially have adverse effects on a person’s mental health causing depression, fatigue and mood swings. Dopamine deficiency can also be detected in major neurological conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Parkinson’s disease.
Long-term use of marijuana releases more negative emotions in the brain and decreases motivation levels. As a result, a person may become dependent on the drug to self-medicate. When the tests were conducted on animal models, the initial dopamine levels were found to be increased, which may further shed some light on the fact as to why people get addicted to the drug. But animal studies are too short to give long-lasting results for humans, notes Prof. Howes.
More research required for early diagnosis of mental health problems
As more and more research is taking place to establish a co-relation between substance abuse and mental health disorders, it is important to learn cannabis’ effect on brain development especially in case of pregnant women if they have used marijuana before they were pregnant or before they realized they were expecting.
“Given the increasing use of cannabis, particularly in young people and women who may be pregnant, animal studies are needed to understand the effects of long-term cannabis use on the developing brain in a controlled way that is not possible in human studies. These studies also need to use techniques that can be translated into human studies, and to better represent human patterns of use,” says Prof. Howes.
Recovering from substance addiction is possible
Marijuana and mental health go hand-in-hand and are often termed as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. They can be emotionally devastating and can be fatal in nature. Dual diagnosis programs can be an effective way of combatting the harmful effects of addiction and keeping the mind healthy and happy.
If you or your loved one is suffering from addiction and mental health problems, the Dual Diagnosis Helpline can suggest good dual diagnosis rehab centers which help an individual reclaim a healthy life. For further assistance, you can call our 24/7 helpline number 855-981-6047 or chat online with our experts to know about state-of-the-art dual diagnosis facilities that equally focus on improving mental health.