Dim and demented under the influence of cannabis

Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

New research shows what many Cannabis users have suspected or known for a while, continuous use can lead to dimmer brains. Australia ranks among the world's highest cannabis users and this puts the population at a high risk of developing dementia say researchers.

The study conducted by researchers at the University of Wollongong says that the brain comes back to its original state once the drug is withdrawn but the main psycho-active ingredient in cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, can stay in the body for long periods of time. In frequent users the levels of THC remain high and that can damage the brain in a more permanent way. Under the lingering influence of THC simple tasks may seem difficult says University of Wollongong clinical psychologist Robert Battista. “It is kind of like if you are driving your car down a freeway and the freeway is the most efficient neural pathway ... [cannabis users might find] the road has potholes or there is fog so that it is more effortful, more resources have to go into doing that same task,” he explained.

He said that he tested users and non users of the drug in memory, inhibition and attention related tests. He says long-term cannabis users surprisingly performed better at some tasks than newer users. “During the process of the brain reorganizing itself over an extended period of time, it looked like that long-term cannabis users were actually getting some recovery of their memory function with a longer history of use…It is essentially the brain going: 'Okay, well these old pathways that we would prefer to use we can't because they have been disrupted so we'll have to use these other ones and we'll get better and better at using them.',” he said.

But Curtin University National Drug Research Institute professor, Simon Lenton warns the results should not make cannabis users feel that the drug is a soft drug. “The picture is mixed. Some studies suggest that functioning does improve after a period of abstinence and for others ... it looks like it doesn't…I think we are still at early days in terms of not only understanding the impact of cannabis on the brain, but also understanding the longer-term impacts and what happens when people stop using cannabis,” he said. He enthused that that harmful effects of the drug is being understood by the population at large since cannabis use has been declining in Australia since the mid 1990s.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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Comments

  1. geoff geoff Australia says:

    Have been using cannabis for 40 years with friends. All successful professionals. No negative impacts. Get with the picture.

  2. Terry Wright Terry Wright Australia says:

    I think most people know "chronic" use of any drug can be dangerous especially booze. What these scary articles never tell us is that moderate use does not hurt you one iota. Sorry, but the propaganda campaign against the responsible use of cannabis is over ... science won out and the anti-drug nutters lost.

  3. Respect Respect Australia says:

    "We are still at early days in terms of not only understanding the impact of cannabis on the brain"

    Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent researching Cannabis and they are still not sure if it damages the brain. Alcohol is well known to damage the brain, in fact, it is known to damage every organ it touches. Yet the government - who pretends to make decisions based on scientific fact, would happily search, harass and criminalise hundreds of thousands of cannabis users. Yet they expect us to respect them?

  4. Terry Wright Terry Wright Australia says:

    I think most people know "chronic" use of any drug can be dangerous especially booze. What these scary articles never tell us is that moderate use does not hurt you one iota. Sorry, but the propaganda campaign against the responsible use of cannabis is over ... science won out and the anti-drug nutters lost.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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