Long-term cannabis use blunts the brain’s motivation system

A study has found that long-term cannabis users tend to produce dopamine in less quantity, a chemical in the brain linked to motivation. Researchers also found that dopamine levels in a part of the brain called the striatum were lower in people who smoke more cannabis and those who began taking the drug at a younger age. They suggested, this finding could explain why some cannabis users appear lack of motivation to work or pursue their normal interests.

The researchers used PET brain imaging to look at dopamine production in the striatum of 19 regular cannabis users and 19 non-users of matching age and sex. In the study the cannabis users had all experienced psychotic-like symptoms while smoking the drug, like experiencing strange sensations or having bizarre thoughts like feeling as though they are being threatened by an unknown force.

Since increased dopamine production has been linked with psychosis the researchers expected that dopamine production might be higher in this group. But they found the effect was opposite. The cannabis users had their first experience with the drug between the ages of 12 and 18.

There was a trend for lower dopamine levels in those who smoke more cannabis and in those who started earlier. These findings suggest that cannabis use may be the cause of the difference in dopamine levels.

Previous research has shown that cannabis users have a higher risk of mental illnesses that involve repeated episodes of psychosis, such as schizophrenia. It has been assumed that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia by inducing the same effects on the dopamine system that we see in schizophrenia

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Balfour Morris is a Medical Student and a freelancer who is specialized in writing. He is associate with many Pharmacies for whom he writes news based on generic drugs and general health related issues.