The Drug Class Blog

Jul 04

Lo and Slow

Lo and slow

Study Links Long Term Marijuana Use With Decreased Motivation

Do you wake and bake?

Are you tired of feeling lazy throughout the day?

Do you dream of great ideas but never actually do them? Do you crave munchies, but are too lazy to get up and get anything, and are wondering why?

A new study may have the answer to that question.

As always it has to do with the operating system.

A recent UK study found that long-term cannabis users tended to produce less dopamine, a “feel good” chemical in the brain that plays an important role in motivation and reward-driven behavior.

The researchers in the United Kingdom scanned the brains of 19 regular marijuana users, and 19 nonusers of the same sex and age, using positron emission tomography (PET), which helps measure the distribution of chemicals throughout the brain. The participants of the study who were regular marijuana smokers as well as those who started using the drug at a younger age were shown to have lower levels of dopamine.

Study participants who smoked marijuana regularly and those who began using the drug at a younger age had lower levels of dopamine in a part of the brain called the striatum. The striatum, implicated in motivation and habits, is a part of the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are associated with a variety of functions, including voluntary motor control and procedural learning related to routine behaviors or habits such as teeth grinding, nail biting, eye movements or cognitive and emotional functions.

Studies have seemed to show that there are indications that this part of the brain is in control of behavior such as motivation. Marijuana substance abusers have altered dopamine systems. How does this altered dopamine system relate to a marijuana smoker’s everyday life? The UK study makes a correlation which seems to show that the lower dopamine production /electrochemical activity may be why cannabis users appear to lack motivation.

The good news for individuals who want normal dopamine production is that the study seemed to indicate that the brain changes are likely reversible as previous studies did not find differences in dopamine production between former marijuana users and people who were never regular users of marijuana.

These findings could explain behaviors commonly seen in marijuana users, although further study is needed to better understand the link, the researchers said. The detailed results of the study were published online June 29 in the Biological Psychiatry Journal.

What do you think?

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