Does Weed Kill Brain Cells?
Marijuana affects the brain. Of that there is no doubt. However, cannabis does not kill brain cells. It can cause brain cell damage indirectly, but the cannabinoids alone don’t have that effect.
The Reality of Marijuana Use
The main active ingredient in pot, THC, affects nerve cells in several different brain regions. In response, the brain alters its bodily and mental functions. These chemical reactions are what cause the “high” as well as its side-effects. THC alters how information is processed in the hippocampus, which regulates memory, attention, and focus; the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which control balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time; and the nucleus accumbens, which is responsible for releasing dopamine – the chemical that gives us a sense of reward.
So far, marijuana doesn’t seem to cause any structural changes in the brain. However, chronic use may cause decreases in mental flexibility and focus over time. Also linked to excessive cannabis use, either as a cause or an exacerbating factor, are neurotransmitter-related disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and mood disorders. Those who suffer from these conditions are likely to abuse other, more dangerous drugs. Marijuana alone won’t cause your health to deteriorate, your job to fall apart, or your social life to end, but destructive behavior might.
The Real Question
Often when someone asks “Does weed kill brain cells?” they’re really asking whether weed makes you stupid. While there’s no clinical inventory for “stupidity,” experts have long studied the possible link between cannabis usage and memory loss. Most effects of THC wear off after acute exposure or are restored after 4-8 weeks of abstinence, but the answer is still unclear. The hippocampus naturally loses neurons as it ages. Smoking might just speed up the process – a lot. Chronic THC exposure in animals seems to have this effect. In one study, rats exposed to heavy THC levels everyday for 8 months lost so many nerve cells, so quickly, that they might as well have been aging at twice the normal rate.
No, marijuana won’t transform you into the village buffoon. It abused, however, it may just cause some needless damage to your memory and quality of life. Marijuana may not be highly addictive, but that’s no reason to accept your problem; it’s just another reason to get it taken care of and over with.
Marijuana may not be the hardest of drugs, but chronic usage can stunt a teenager’s mental growth and lead them down a problematic behavioral path. If your teen is abusing cannabis, and you’re concerned about their well-being, don’t worry about overreacting: just get them help. Call Blueprints for Recovery today.