Marijuana affects different individuals differently. While some experience enjoyable rewarding effects which eventually lead to dependence; others experience negative psychological episodes like delusions and paranoia, increased risk of developing schizophrenia, and even symptoms of psychosis.
Till now, it was unknown why this happened. However, a recent study, published in the journal Nature, claimed that the different effects of marijuana were dependent upon the brain region that it acted upon.
According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. with over 26 million current users aged 12 years and above. The main intoxicating chemical in marijuana which causes its psychoactive effects is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Specific brain regions responsible for effect
Lead author Dr. Steven Laviolette, a professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, said that the study discovered significant new understandings about how marijuana could produce such varied psychological effects on different individuals. Before the study, the specific regions of the brain responsible for such wide-ranging effects of marijuana were undiscovered. He said that by conducting translational rodent research, they were able to identify the specific regions of the brain responsible for the rewarding properties of marijuana, also those areas which were linked to the adverse side effects.
The researchers further added that the rewarding and pleasurable effects were produced by the frontal regions of the brain area called the nucleus accumbens. This region not only produced the satisfying effects but also augmented the addictive properties of opioids such as morphine and amplified the pleasure-related activity patterns of the neurons in the brain.
Alternatively, the adverse, negative side effects were linked to the posterior part of the nucleus accumbens. These effects mostly included emotional and mental symptoms related to schizophrenia. Additionally, the neuron activity patterns were found to be similar to those in patients suffering from schizophrenia.
Terming the findings as important, co-author Dr. Christopher Norris said that the data obtained by the group showed that these diverse effects of marijuana could be due to genetic variation in individuals which was likely to cause varied sensitivity of each area.
Effects of marijuana dependent on method and dose
Apart from the brain region affected, the effects of marijuana also depend on the method of consumption as well as the potency of the drug.
Some of the pleasurable psychological effects of marijuana include:
- A sense of relaxation and wellbeing
- A false sense of happiness and euphoria
- Increased sensory perceptions
Some of the adverse psychological effects of marijuana include:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Paranoia and delusions
- Loss of personal identity
- Increased psychosis
- Treatment for marijuana addiction
Marijuana is an addictive substance which can cause physical problems, like heart and lung disorders, and mental disorders. The co-occurrence of a mental health disorder and an addiction is called dual-diagnosis. While an addiction can be treated with a comprehensive treatment program that comprise medically assisted detoxification treatment followed by behavioral therapies and counseling sessions under professional care, a mental disorder can also respond well to medication.
If you or a loved one is battling a co-occurring substance use disorder and a mental illness and is looking for dual-diagnosis treatment centers, get in touch with the California Dual-Diagnosis Helpline. Call at our 24/7 helpline (855) 980-1736 or chat online with one of our experts to get information about the best dual diagnosis treatment programs.