What are the consequences of a long-term marijuana use?
Hundreds of studies tried to understand the possible effect of marijuana use. But none of those studies are conclusive.
The biggest challenge stems from the methodological aspects of the previous studies. As a result, findings were sometimes contradicting.
However, a study in 2014 found another unique effect of marijuana use on the brain. In the study, the users were found to have better neural connectivity in their brains despite the loss of gray matter in areas associated with addiction.
This study is unique in the sense that it is the first investigation that used multiple brain scanning techniques. The researchers were able to examine both the structure and the function of the brain.
Dr. Sina Aslan, one of the study’s authors said that “The results suggest increases in connectivity, both structural and functional that may be compensating for gray matter losses.”
But the neural connectivity in the brain of the users may not last long. “Eventually, however, the structural connectivity or ‘wiring’ of the brain starts degrading with prolonged marijuana use,” said Aslan.
The data were gathered from 48 adults who used the drug three times a day. The data were compared to 62 matched non-marijuana users.
The finding suggests that both changes in connectivity and structure were influenced by the onset and duration of use.
The connectivity increases when people begin to use. The increase is greater when the frequency of use increases.
But the length of use is also associated with the decrease of the orbitofrontal cortex. This brain region is responsible for decision making and reward processes.
This may be the reason why most studies found that marijuana users perform well. When neural connection diminishes in one area, the other gains connection. The loss is always compensated.
But studies on this topic is still scarce. The long-term effects of marijuana use are not fully understood.
“However, research on its long-term effects remains scarce despite the changes in legislation surrounding marijuana and the continuing conversation surrounding this relevant public health topic,” concluded Dr. Filbey one of the study’s authors.