RESEARCH

Weed could impact brain function when sober – study

Most impact is felt in youthful brain because it is undergoing significant developmental changes

In Summary

•Marijuana may alter the ability to make decisions and solve problems.

•Use of marijuana also affects our psychology and users tend to be hostile and impulsive.

Image: REUTERS

Weed, which comes from the cannabis plant, is becoming popular, especially among the youth in Kenya.

It has several names which include; marijuana, grass, bhang, shush, ki-shada, pot, among others.

The drug, however, remains illegal in Kenya and those found guilty of possessing cannabis face not more than five years in jail or a fine of Sh100,000 or both.

The law also sets out a Sh1 million in fine or 10 years in jail if one is convicted of being in possession of the drug for his/her own consumption.

Cannabis has numerous positive qualities and, sometimes, it is even prescribed as a medication.

Marijuana is the third most consumed substance in the world, after alcohol and nicotine, with experts still debating on its positive and negative impacts on human health.

In a new study published on Thursday in the journal Addiction, people using marijuana can have acute brain impairments, especially for adolescents.

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“Cannabis use in youth may consequently lead to reduced educational attainment, and in adults, to poor work performance and dangerous driving. These consequences may be worse in regular and heavy users,”  said the study’s co-author Dr Alexandre Dumais, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Université de Montréal.

The study which was led by a team of Canadian researchers stated that the long term effects of marijuana need to be understood first before legalizing it.

“Our study enabled us to highlight several areas of cognition impaired by cannabis use, including concentrating problems and difficulties remembering and learning, which may have a considerable impact on users’ daily lives,” Dumais added.

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Getting the “high” feeling

The main psychoactive compound in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

THC, according to WedMD, stimulates the part of your brain that responds to pleasure, like food and sex. That unleashes a chemical called dopamine, which gives you a euphoric, relaxed feeling whether you smoke it, vape it or eat it.

After a while, one feels hungry and can choke on food, feeling lazy and tired, you may not think clearly, you feel sad and heightened senses could heighten your anxiety and depression due to hallucinations and paranoia.

Mental health
Mental health
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How it affects mental health

For some, the use of marijuana may be for medical purposes whereas others use it because they are bored or for recreational purposes.

Cannabis with time may alter the ability to make decisions, remember important data, plan, organize and solve problems as well as control emotions and behaviour.

Research has found the use of marijuana also affects our psychology, and users tend to be hostile and impulsive, especially after a day of no use.

The negative effects of the use of marijuana depend on the amount, frequency, years of use and the age at which one begins using marijuana.

However, the researchers say the most impact is felt if it falls within the crucial developmental period of the youthful brain, whose brains are undergoing significant developmental changes.   

"Research has revealed that THC is a fat-soluble compound that may be stored in body fat and, thus, gradually released into the bloodstream for months," Dumais said.

"Interventional measures to educate youths on cannabis use of the substance in a chronic manner should be considered ... since youths remain particularly susceptible to the effects of cannabis."