Pubdate: Sat, 08 Mar 2014
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2014 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Aldyth Buckland
Page: Letter of the Day



Marijuana is a gateway drug. Its use has side effects that affect the
structure and function of the brain.

Yes, marijuana can damage the brain! Dr Daniel Amen has done SPECT
brain scans on persons who have abused substances, including
marijuana. In one study, he looked at a 57-year-old physician who had
abused cannabis for 30 years. This doctor was unable to stop using it
because of feelings of anger, irritability, agitation and anxiety when
he tried to quit.

The first study was done when the doctor used marijuana heavily to the
point of intoxication for three consecutive days. SPECT brain scans
were done. The second study was done when the physician was off
cannabis for one month and SPECT brain scans were done.

The study without marijuana showed decreased temporal lobe activity,
likely from prolonged use of cannabis, but there was also patchy
increased uptake, especially increased uptake in the deep left
temporal lobe, often associated with anger, irritability and anxiety.


The study with heavy marijuana use showed overall marked decreased
activity, especially in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes,
associated with attention, memory and motivational problems. There was
also a decrease in the overactive areas noted when the person was on
marijuana compared to when the person was off marijuana. Dr Amen
reported that the scan series may argue for the possibility of
'self-medication'; however, this 'medication' has the side effect of
potential long-term damage of the brain.

Last month, I had an elderly female patient who drank ganja tea one
morning, hoping that it would reduce her back pain from spinal
stenosis. She had used about a centimetre of it to make the brew. When
she came to see me, she exclaimed, "Doctor, I am dying, I feel like my
brain does not belong to me." She had taken it because a neighbour
suggested that she try it. I had to refer her to the emergency
department of a nearby hospital for her to be stabilised.

Information for this letter was obtained from


Medical Doctor
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