Here’s what long-term cannabis use does to the brain
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The truth about marijuana and memory loss
A few decades ago, most people saw cannabis as a recreational good time that had negative side effects.
Now cannabis is seen as a healthy, natural treatment for many diseases – safer than pharmaceutical options.
But the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Cannabis can have beneficial effects for some problems – but there are costs.
A new study looks at the effect of cannabinoids on memory.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds similar to those found in cannabis.
These animal experiments took place at the Institute of Pharmacology and Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal. The Journal of Neurochemistry published the results.
Pharmaceutical companies have been developing cannabis-based treatments for the last few decades.
These drugs use molecules similar to those found in cannabis.
But cannabinoids have known side effects.
This study looked at how a cannabinoid affects memory in animals.
“Discovering how cannabinoids affect brain function is instrumental for the development of tools to mitigate side effects of cannabinoids.”
The study used a cannabinoid chemical with the catchy name WIN 55,212-2.
WIN 55,212-2 has a similar effect to one of the main active components of cannabis (THC).
And it acts on the cannabinoid receptors in the same way.
Previous studies have shown that the cannabinoid WIN 55,212-2 affects memory in mice after a single dose.
“A single treatment with the cannabinoid receptor agonist, WIN 55,212‐2, disrupts recognition memory in mice.”
This study looked at the effect of WIN 55,212-2 on memory and brain metabolism of mice over a month.
“Here we evaluate how prolonged, intermittent (30 days) exposure to WIN 55,212‐2 alters recognition memory and impacts on brain metabolism.”
Cannabinoid treatment led to prolonged memory problems in the animals.
They were unable to recognize whether they had seen an object before or not.
“Chronic treatment with WIN 55,212‐2 disrupts recognition memory (Novel Object Recognition Test).”
The scientists found that the synthetic cannabinoid lowered metabolism in some regions of the brain.
“WIN 55,212‐2 exposure induces low metabolism in multiple brain regions.”
These regions of the brain are critical to memory.
“These two brain regions [are] directly involved in recognition memory.”
The animals had less energy available to generate and store memory in the brain.
Animals given the cannabinoid were less able to make brain connections critical to memory.
“WIN 55,212‐2 administration alters functional connectivity in brain networks that underlie recognition memory.”
Different parts of the brain were less able to communicate with each other under the influence of cannabinoids.
“Brain connectivity was impaired between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, the thalamus and prefrontal cortex, and between the hippocampus and the perirhinal cortex.”
The scientists also discovered that the cannabinoid alters serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin has a huge effect on many brain functions.
“Our results support disturbed serotonin system functional connectivity following WIN 55,212‐2 exposure.”
The effect on the brain serotonin system needs to be researched further…
The study shows that activating the cannabinoid receptors with cannabinoids can negatively affect memory.
“This study provides new insight into the functional mechanisms underlying the impact of chronic cannabinoid exposure on memory.”
The effects of cannabinoids on the serotonin system are particularly worrying.
“These results highlight the serotonin system as a particularly vulnerable target of cannabinoids.”
Cannabis has been used for thousands of years…
In recent decades, more and more people have been using cannabis and cannabis-based treatments.
Cannabis research is still in early development.
Most people believe that because something is “natural” that it must be harmless. But this is not always the case.
Cannabis-based medicines have risks as well as benefits.
You should consult a healthcare professional regarding the diagnosis and treatment of any illness.
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