Long-term marijuana users are at higher risk of mental disorders

Long-term marijuana users are at higher risk of mental disorders

An increasing number of Americans are queuing up outside mental health establishments to be treated for their psychiatric disorders. This makes it imperative to understand the factors responsible for the growing pervasiveness of mental illnesses in the nation.

Conditions affecting one’s mental health might be due to genetic, social, cultural and environmental factors while the impact of drugs in causing psychiatric disorders cannot be ruled out. A group of researchers claims how prolonged use of marijuana can adversely affect one’s mental health condition. The results of the study indicate how drugs can bring about modifications in the brain’s reward system, thus, resulting in more negative emotions and decreasing the level of motivation.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis results in lower dopamine levels in the brain

The scientists in the study titled “The effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol on the dopamine system” revealed that how cannabis leads to reduced levels of dopamine in the brain. The neurotransmitter, dopamine, has an important role in learning, movement, inspiration, emotions and reward. The study published online in the journal Nature in November 2016 concluded how reduced dopamine levels have been linked to mood changes, tiredness, depressive behavior and lack of motivation levels. This explains how patients afflicted with psychiatric disorders like Parkinson’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been found to suffer from dopamine deficiency.

Prolonged cannabis use has been linked to common psychiatric diseases like schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Increased use of marijuana post legalization for medical and recreational purposes is a cause of concern as the effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannot be ignored.

Elucidating on how prolonged exposure to THC leads to reduced levels of dopamine, the authors of the study noted, “The available evidence indicates that THC exposure produces complex, diverse and potentially long-term effects on the dopamine system. These include increased nerve firing and dopamine release in response to acute THC, and dopaminergic blunting associated with long-term use.” This may also help explain how those abusing marijuana for prolonged periods are at greater risk of being afflicted with mental health problems.

Prior studies conducted on animals indicate how marijuana use initially results in increasing the dopamine levels, thus, lending a sense of reward, which explains increased risk of addiction. Scientists are yet to understand as to how the brain gets affected after frequency of marijuana intake is reduced. This is important as some women happen to consume marijuana on a regular basis in the early phases of pregnancy before realizing that they are expecting.

Marijuana may have long-term effects on brain

The fact that not much is known about long-term effects of marijuana on the developing brain is a subject of worry as marijuana remains the most widely abused illicit drug among both American men and women. The need to carry out human studies as opposed to understanding the effects of the drug with the help of animal trials is more imperative at this stage to gain better understanding of how use of this drug can affect an entire generation of users.

People seeking treatment for marijuana addiction need to be checked for potential mental health problems as well. Those already afflicted with a mental health problem may turn to drugs in a bid to self-medicate. The treatment programs should be designed in a manner that helps assess coexistence of disorders and provide effective measures to tackle each.

If you know someone who is addicted to drugs and needs help, contact the California Drug Addiction Helpline to get details about various addiction treatment centers in California that provide diagnostic assessment and a comprehensive approach towards treatment and recovery. You can call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1946 or chat online with our experts to find the top drug treatment centers in California.