JUN 09, 2016 7:46 AM PDT

Long-Term Marijuana Use Rewires Brain's Reward Circuits

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet

As marijuana proves itself effective in treating a multitude of diseases, researchers are looking for problems associated with long-term marijuana use. Research has recently shown that long-term cannabis users have more activity in the brain’s reward system when presented with cues related to marijuana (in comparison to when presented with natural reward cues).
“Marijuana disrupts the natural reward circuitry of the brain, making marijuana highly salient to those who use it heavily,” said Francesca Filbey, lead author and director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for BrainHealth. "In essence, these brain alterations could be a marker of transition from recreational marijuana use to problematic use."

In order to find the effects of marijuana on the mesocorticolimbic reward system, the researchers recruited 59 adult marijuana users and 70 adult non-users. The average marijuana user had used the drug for 12 years. The researchers exposed the participants to various visual marijuana cues, such as bongs, blunts, and pipes, and self-selected images of preferred fruit, such as bananas, oranges, and grapes. After looking at the images, the participants rated their urge to use marijuana. 


When presented with cannabis-related cues, the marijuana users had an enhanced response in the brain regions associated with reward. 

"We found that this disruption of the reward system correlates with the number of problems, such as family issues, individuals have because of their marijuana use," Filbey said. "Continued marijuana use despite these problems is an indicator of marijuana dependence."

The paper was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

Sources: Human Brain Mapping, University of Texas Dallas press release via Science Daily

About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
You May Also Like
OCT 15, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
OCT 15, 2019
CBD Extract for Cannabis Addiction
Some people believe the secret to curing a hangover is to drink more alcohol the morning after a night of binge drinking - “the hair of the dog that...
DEC 20, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 20, 2019
A Natural Approach to Pain Management
In many instances, pain can be a rather useful tool. It informs individuals that something is amiss with their body and they should seek treatment. However...
JAN 12, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
JAN 12, 2020
Scientists Discover Cannabinoid 30 Times Stronger than THC
Scientists from Italy have identified a new cannabinoid in the glands of the Cannabis plant, known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THCP), that may be at least 30 ...
FEB 11, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
FEB 11, 2020
Understanding THC Content in Cannabis Edibles
Nearly one-third of cannabis users in Canada consume edible cannabis products, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada report. But do people who use edible c...
MAR 12, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAR 12, 2020
In New Jersey, Medical Marijuana Patients Can't Be Fired for Drug Tests
Thirty-three states, Washington D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have a comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana program....
MAR 20, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
MAR 20, 2020
Safety Guidelines for Staying High During the Pandemic
In times of high anxiety, uncertainty and home quarantine, stocking up on cannabis in legal states seems almost as popular as the worldwide runs on toilet ...
Loading Comments...