Parsing the Contradictions: Marijuana and the Brain

by Kayt Sukel December 6, 2016

California’s Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed on Nov. 8, 2016, making it legal for people 21 and older in that state to use marijuana recreationally. California is just the latest—more than 20 states have now legalized some manner of Cannabis sativa use and it is expected that more will follow. At Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, said these changes in legislation are cause for concern…“With the changes in legislation, we are already seeing an increase in consumption of marijuana across the population of the United States,” said Volkow…

That impact appears to be significant. In a talk entitled, “Translational Neuroepigenetic Insights of Addiction Vulnerability,” Hurd discussed how her research is demonstrating that both adolescent marijuana use, as well as exposure to THC in utero, makes epigenetic changes to the brain, priming it for greater susceptibility for later addiction to opiate drugs.
“We see specific morphological changes in the brain to important neurotransmitter systems, and individuals who are exposed to THC early in life show greater sensitivity to opiates than others do,” she said. “We know that the brain definitely adapts to marijuana. It is profoundly changing the receptors and receptor signaling that impact gene expression. And the changes it makes last through adulthood and even into the next generation.

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