Everyone should be aware of marijuana effects on the brain before partaking in an activity that is illegal in most states. The active compounds in this plant, primarily tetrahydrocannobil, or THC, impact the brain, thereby impacting mood and mental functioning. Are the effects of marijuana on the brain dangerous, harmless or a combination of the two? Having an idea of what is going on with the chemistry of the brain may help people develop a greater understanding of the potential short and long-term effects.
- THC: The main active phytochemical in marijuana that has an effect on the brain is THC. This compound attaches to neurons in the brain. This can interfere with the communication between neurons, causing several temporary changes such as difficulty with short-term memory.
- Cannabinoid Receptors: These are the specific sites in the brain that are activated by the chemicals in marijuana. Cannabinoid receptors are located in high concentrations in areas that have to do with memory, concentration, sensory perception, time awareness and pleasure. It is these facets of the mind that are affected by marijuana use.
- Neurotransmitters: Another marijuana effect on the brain is the altered activity of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that transmit signals between neurons. Neurotransmitter disturbances can lead to the anxiety and depression that some people experience.
- Emotional Changes: Marijuana use can also cause emotional changes such as sudden joy or fear. This is because THC can also affect the limbic system, which is the area of the brain that is responsible for emotions and behavior.
- Long Term: Research has shown that there are not long-term effects on the brain from marijuana use. Chronic use does not cause any degree of brain damage. While chemical changes that occur because of active compounds, mostly THC, will cause short-term changes, over the long run marijuana users will still be able to think, learn and remember as well as non-users.