Marijuana is the world’s most popular drug, and is frequently used by young adults as a recreational substance. This use continues to increase as more states begin to pass marijuana legalization laws, so the question remains, is weed bad for you? Is it a gateway drug to nastier drugs such as meth or heroin? Research hasn’t really found too many answers, but this article aims to help you understand why all your friends in college smell like skunks.
It is believed in weed culture that one of the beauties of marijuana is the lack of addictive qualities, which often are found in many harmful substances like cocaine and meth. Seth Rogan, in the iconic weed-lover’s movie Pineapple Express, even says, “I can’t be addicted to marijuana. A, I use a bong. It filters out the addictive [stuff]. Seriously.” So according to the scientific knowledge of Seth Rogan, weed can’t be addictive. As fool proof as that logic sounds, this article is going to present some of the real facts about how addictive marijuana is, and allow you, the reader, to make your own decisions about weed before you decide to take that first hit of your friends bong.
A group of researchers at the University of Michigan recently studied how smoking weed can affect the reward system in your brain. The reward system is a part of your brain in charge of motivating you to do things, and recreational drugs often work by attacking this part of the brain. This study wanted to see if marijuana use could affect the reward system causing different behavior. In this epic stoner versus non-stoner scenario, a monetary task was chosen where the subjects received either a large or small amount of money, and once they received this money, scientists looked at the reward part of their brains to see how much it was activated. The main point of the study was to see if the “weed-brains” acted differently than “normal brains” once they received the money. Shockingly enough, the “weed-brains” showed a lot less excitement for the free money compared to normal brains. This meant that a person who uses marijuana had a less active reward complex in their brain compared to non-users. So why is this important for marijuana addiction?
It’s important because it showed that marijuana use might actually dull the reward system, which could lead to people seeking out other drugs to help compensate for this loss of motivation toward other things in their life. This theory makes sense because often marijuana is seen as a “gate-way” drug that leads to someone looking for more intense and dangerous drugs after becoming bored with the effects of marijuana.
The true answer behind marijuana addictiveness is far from being answered, but I hope this article gives you some scientific backbone for the next time you try and convince your stoner friend or family member that their bong doesn’t actually “filter out the addictive [stuff]”.
References: Martz, M. E., Trucco, E. M., Cope, L. M., Hardee, J. E., Jester, J. M., Zucker, R. A., & Heitzeg, M. M. (2016). Association of Marijuana Use With Blunted Nucleus Accumbens Response to Reward Anticipation. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(8), 838–844. http://doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1161