HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html It's For Your Own Protection
Pubdate: Fri, 30 Apr 2004
Source: Morning Star, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Morning Star


Many people think that smoking marijuana has no long-term effects on
them or their brains; it's a common myth. In fact, the long-term
effects of cannabis are very similar to those of other drugs such as
cocaine, heroin and alcohol in the changes that it produces within the

Studies have shown that long-term exposure to cannibinoids leads to
changes in the brain that activate stress-like responses during
withdrawal. These changes may ultimately lead to easier addiction of
other substances as well; since the brain becomes more vulnerable to
abuse and addiction and is more easily changed by drugs in the future.
Another effect is in the Dopamine Neurons, which are directly or
indirectly affected by all drugs of abuse, these neurons are
responsible for the regulation of motivation and reward.

Another myth about the seemingly harmless Marijuana plant is that it's
not addictive, wrong again.

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse,
National Institute of Health has done extensive research on this
subject and found that a large number of chronic marijuana users
become addicted and animals used in research have even showed distinct
withdrawal symptoms when taken off the drug after extensive use.

After repeated use of marijuana as with most other drugs of abuse a
person begins to become tolerant to the drug. There are several
reasons for this, the brain may become used to having a certain amount
of the drug present and thus doesn't respond the same way it did initially.

The body may become more effective at metabolizing and breaking down
the drug; this reduces the amount of the drug in the bloodstream.
Another possibility is that the cells of the body may cause changes to
the activity of the receptors and therefore become more resistant to
the drug. No matter what the reason, these changes, inducing
tolerance, force the drug user to take increasingly higher dose over
time, in order to get the same "high" that they're used to, this
increased of the drug simply causes more and more long and short-term
effects on their bodies and brains.

Marijuana works because of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol); a drug found in
cannabis, as the smoke is inhaled it is quickly absorbed into the
bloodstream through the lungs, which carries the chemical through the
blood to the organs including the brain. THC causes a reaction with
cannabinoid receptors, which are found in several places throughout
the brain, these places are involved with the brains function of
memory, concentration, perception and movement.

When the interaction occurs it effects the normal functioning of these

Studies are being done in Australia in which sophisticated brain
imaging technology is being used to show how closely the changes
produced by long-term marijuana use mirror those associate with
schizophrenia. Test subjects are people aged between 17 and 24 who
have smoked at like 20,000 "joints" in the past 2 years.

The research showed that chronic cannabis users experienced impaired
frontal brain functioning, which interfere with attention, memory and
concentration and was similar to some symptoms of schizophrenia. Dr.
Cohen commented that, "Cannabis affects the neutral networks, or the
architecture, of the brain's refrontal cortex in a similar way to
schizophrenia." Previous studies have also showed that heavy
adolescent users are increasing their risk of developing schizophrenia
by up to six times, so it seems marijuana use does have seem possibly
quite serious effects.

A report produced by the Seattle Transhumanists in June 2001 gives
several facts about the cognitive effects of Cannabis. Not only does
THC effect short-term memory it also interferes with memory formation
in the future, therefore even after the consumption of the drug the
brain is still being affected in growth patterns. Some of the motion
effects on the Striatum of the brain are implicated in motion
disorders Parkinson's and Huntington's disease, as well as increased
Obsessive-Compulsive behavior, but reduction in Tics from Turret's
Syndrome. THC also impairs reaction time in visual scanning in the
long run after frequent use of the drug.

It is estimated that about 70 million Americans have tried marijuana
and of this number about 10-14 become dependent of the drug, yet some
scientist still claim that there is no addictive chemical in the drug
at all. A study involving monkey's gave the animals a lever in which
injected them with THC each time they pulled it, once they figured it
out the monkey's pulled the lever approximately 30 times per minute.

Although this does not conclude that it is addictive because the
monkey's may simply have enjoyed the high, it is still clear that
there is a possibility something in the drug gets certain people (and
animals) hooked.

There are many commonly believed myths about marijuana, like it's
impossible to get addicted to, there are no long-term effects, it
doesn't effect your driving abilities, etc. The truth is studies have
shown that the use of Cannabis and the effects it has on the body and
mind are similar if not greater than those of alcohol and smoking as
well as the brain related effects of hard drugs.

So in case you didn't think about it before, it's illegal for a
reason... you're protection. 
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