Marijuanas And Its Psychological Impact Explored

Explore marijuana and its psychological impact, from brain function to mental health risks.

Understanding Marijuana Use

Before diving into the psychological impact of marijuana, it's crucial to understand what marijuana is and its prevalence in society.

Defining Marijuana and Its Components

Marijuana, also known as cannabis, is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis plant. It is primarily used for medical or recreational purposes and is the second most widely used intoxicant in adolescence. The plant's primary psychoactive component is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for most of the drug's psychological effects. Other active compounds include cannabidiol (CBD), among others, which also contribute to its various effects.

The Prevalence of Marijuana Use

Marijuana use is prevalent, particularly among adolescents and young adults. According to a report, 23% of 12th graders in the US reported using marijuana in the past month.

In 2021, marijuana use reached an all-time high among young adults aged 19-30 compared to the previous decade. However, there was a slight yet significant decline in marijuana use for eighth, ninth, and 12th graders in 2021 compared to 2020. This reduction has been attributed to factors like limited peer contact and increased parental supervision due to COVID-19 [2].

Age Group Marijuana Use in 2021
8th Graders Decreased
9th Graders Decreased
12th Graders Decreased
Young Adults (19-30) Increased

Further, marijuana and alcohol are the most commonly used substances by adolescents and young adults. Concurrent use of these two substances is of significant concern due to its association with more negative social and medical health consequences, such as impaired driving, criminal justice involvement, higher rates of alcohol and cannabis use disorders, and psychiatric issues.

Marijuana use disorder is also prevalent, with an estimated 30% of marijuana users having some degree of the disorder. The risk increases to 50% among daily users. The disorder can lead to addiction, withdrawal symptoms, and difficulty with limiting or stopping marijuana use [3].

Understanding the prevalence of marijuana use is a critical step in addressing its impact on mental health and devising effective prevention and treatment strategies.

The Impact of Marijuana on Brain Function

Exploring the psychological impact of marijuana, we delve into how this substance affects brain function. The areas of focus include the impact on memory and learning, cognitive functioning, and brain development during adolescence.

How Marijuana Affects Memory and Learning

Marijuana, specifically its active compound THC, is known to impact areas of the brain associated with memory and learning. Studies reveal that cumulative lifetime exposure to marijuana in young adults is associated with lower scores on verbal memory tests over a 25-year period, suggesting functional impairment in cognitive abilities. This effect remains significant even after adjusting for various confounding factors.

Furthermore, chronic THC exposure could accelerate age-related loss of hippocampal neurons, which are crucial for memory formation. Rats exposed to THC every day for 8 months showed nerve cell loss comparable to animals twice their age, indicating potential negative effects on learning and memory [4].

Marijuana and Cognitive Functioning

Persistent marijuana use disorder, starting in adolescence, may lead to an average loss of 6 to 8 IQ points measured in mid-adulthood. These lost points, studies suggest, don't recover upon quitting. Studies have also shown declines in verbal ability and general knowledge in youth who used marijuana.

Heavy marijuana use in adolescence is associated with disadvantages in neurocognitive performance, macrostructural and microstructural brain development, and alterations in brain functioning [1]. This includes poorer performance in attention, learning, memory, and executive functioning.

Marijuana and Brain Development in Adolescence

The use of marijuana during adolescence can significantly impact normal brain development. Regular marijuana use in adolescence may lead to altered brain connectivity and reduced volume of brain regions involved in executive functions such as memory, learning, and impulse control, compared to non-users [4].

Evidence suggests that adolescent marijuana users may experience changes in cortical and subcortical gray matter volumes. Heavy marijuana use in adolescence has also been associated with changes in white matter microstructure, including alterations in fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean diffusivity (MD) [1].

Excessive and frequent marijuana use can lead to issues in learning, memory, coordination, reaction time, and judgment. It is linked with hallucinations, paranoia, emotional problems, and can result in marijuana use disorder, especially for youth using it at an early age and in high amounts.

In conclusion, while marijuana use is becoming more accepted and prevalent, it is crucial to understand its potential psychological impact, especially on the brain functions of young adults and adolescents.

Marijuana and Mental Health

The psychological impact of marijuana has been a topic of extensive research and discussion in recent years. Several studies have pointed out links between marijuana use and various mental health conditions, including psychosis, depression, and anxiety.

Marijuana's Connection with Psychosis

Research indicates that cannabis use has been linked to an earlier onset of psychosis in individuals with genetic risk factors for psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, as well as to worsening symptoms in those already suffering from these conditions [5].

Chronic marijuana use has also been associated with an increased risk of developing psychotic disorders, especially among those with a predisposition to such conditions. Moreover, long-term use has been linked to an earlier onset of schizophrenia in predisposed individuals.

According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, approximately 1 in 4 patients with schizophrenia are also diagnosed with Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) [6].

Marijuana Use and Depression

There is also evidence suggesting a connection between marijuana use and depression, although the relationship is complex. Some studies have found that marijuana users are more likely to experience depression than non-users, but it is unclear whether marijuana use causes depression or whether people with depression are more likely to use marijuana.

In addition, some people use marijuana as a form of self-medication for their depression. However, while marijuana may temporarily alleviate some symptoms of depression, it can also exacerbate feelings of depression once the effects of the drug wear off.

Marijuana Use and Anxiety

The relationship between marijuana use and anxiety is similarly complicated. Some people use marijuana to relieve symptoms of anxiety, and there is evidence to suggest that certain components of marijuana, such as cannabidiol (CBD), may have anti-anxiety effects.

However, for some people, marijuana use can cause or worsen anxiety. This may be more likely to occur with high doses of marijuana or in individuals with a predisposition to anxiety disorders. Further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between marijuana use and anxiety.

In conclusion, while marijuana can have therapeutic benefits for certain conditions, its use is also associated with a number of mental health risks. It's important for individuals to be aware of these risks and to seek professional advice if they are considering using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The Risk Factors of Marijuana Use

Understanding the risk factors associated with marijuana use is crucial in the broader study of marijuana and its psychological impact. Several factors, including genetics and environment, can influence an individual's propensity to use marijuana and their susceptibility to its potential effects.

Genetic Factors and Marijuana Use

One significant risk factor is genetics. Research indicates that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of earlier onset psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, especially in individuals with a family history of these conditions.

Furthermore, genetic factors can moderate the relationship between cannabis use and psychotic disorders. This association appears to be dose-dependent, with the highest risk among the most frequent users [7].

Chronic marijuana use has also been associated with an increased risk of developing psychotic disorders, particularly among those genetically predisposed to such conditions. Long-term use has been linked to an earlier onset of schizophrenia in predisposed individuals.

Environmental Factors and Marijuana Use

Alongside genetic factors, environmental factors play a role in influencing marijuana use tendencies. Factors such as the quantity of drug consumed, frequency of use, THC content of the product, type of cannabis, and age at first use can impact the relationship between cannabis use and mental health outcomes.

Additionally, environmental stressors like trauma and stress that impact mental health also affect drug use tendencies. Consuming cannabis at high doses can lead to temporary psychotic episodes, which might elevate the risk of developing a psychotic disorder in the future.

To mitigate the psychological impact of marijuana, it's essential to understand and address these genetic and environmental risk factors. By doing so, individuals, healthcare providers, and decision-makers can make informed decisions about marijuana use and its potential consequences.

Managing and Preventing Marijuana Use Disorder

In understanding the psychological impact of marijuana, it's crucial to address the management and prevention of marijuana use disorder. This is an important part of mitigating the risks associated with marijuana use, particularly for those who may be more susceptible to developing a substance use disorder.

Recognizing Marijuana Use Disorder

Marijuana use disorder is characterized by an inability to stop or limit marijuana use despite experiencing negative consequences. The disorder can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms, which can affect a person's daily life and overall well-being.

According to American Addiction Centers, an estimated 30% of marijuana users have some degree of marijuana use disorder, with the risk increasing to 50% among daily users. It's imperative to be aware of these statistics, given the growing prevalence of marijuana use.

In 2014, a national survey revealed that out of 20.2 million adults in the United States with a substance use disorder, 7.9 million had both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. This highlights the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of mental health and substance use, and the need for cross-disciplinary research to inform public health decisions.

Prevention and Treatment Methods

Preventing and treating marijuana use disorder requires a multifaceted approach, considering both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. This includes understanding the individual's unique circumstances, including their mental health status and the potential genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to their susceptibility to substance use disorder.

In the context of marijuana use and mental health, research has shown a significant association between cannabis use and the development of psychosis. For instance, approximately 1 in 4 patients with schizophrenia are also diagnosed with Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) [6].

Furthermore, cannabis use is associated with 2-4 times the likelihood of developing psychosis in healthy individuals [6]. Moreover, cannabis use has been linked to earlier onset of psychosis, increased symptom severity, higher rates of relapse, longer hospitalizations, and poorer outcomes in individuals with schizophrenia.

Given these findings, prevention strategies should prioritize education and awareness about the risks associated with marijuana use, particularly among individuals with a predisposition to mental health disorders.

Treatment methods for marijuana use disorder can include cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and contingency management. It is important for individuals struggling with marijuana use disorder to seek professional help and explore the treatment options that are best suited to their needs.









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