One of the most controversial topics in the world is raising new questions for society. Chronic pot smoking: is it safe or is it detrimental to the health? Well, the truth is, there are effects of smoking marijuana, other than increased appetite and euphoric states of pleasure. There are negative affects to this habit, this just cannot be denied! The important question is, just how bad are these negative effects? Some say marijuana is just another habitual pastime that doesn’t really cause any permanent harm. Others think marijuana can change your entire thinking process. So, why is this?
This is where marijuana takes its toll. It has been proven recently that pot smoking reduces gray matter-exclusively in the orbitalfrontal cortex. It’s true! There is a marked reduction in volume in this area of the brain-mainly area that controls emotions and decision making. Taking a closer look at these results shows other interesting facts. Although these regions have decreased volume, they do have increased connectivity to other regions of the brain. Even though this sounds strange, there is a reason for this seemingly inconclusive evidence.
It seems that due to the loss of gray matter, the brain is desperately attempting to compensate by connecting with other regions, filling the gaps. Apparently, marijuana improves the ability of the brain to form new connections. In fact, when studying the brains of pot smokers, there is a marked increase in connectivity as opposed to non-smokers.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas used an MRI machine to come at this conclusion. Test subjects, comprised of 50 smokers and 62 non-smokers, allowed researchers to test their brains to get a larger idea of what was actually happening. The smokers were chronic users, smoking at least three times a day, every day, and were of various age range, consisting of both male and female volunteers. The non-smokers were all the same age and sex, being a controlled group. This allowed for a more unbiased performance from the test subjects.
Scientists came to the conclusion that the earlier the individual started smoking, the greater the increase in connectivity of the brain regions. After 8 years, however, the re-wiring drastically slowed, but still remained well over the connectivity of non-smokers. Users also had a lower IQ, but surprisingly, this had nothing to do with decreased OFC volume.
Many advocates question the usefulness of these tests, saying they have proven no negative facts about the user’s quality of life. It seems that marijuana smokers perform and contribute to life in a perfectly normal way, no drastic changes or decrease in basic living abilities. Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws states that these findings may have absolutely nothing to do with the real world and are almost insignificant.
Others may disagree and keep pushing for laws against marijuana use, saying it is a detrimental drug which damages the minds of our youth. There are strong statements from both sides and results that remain inconclusive. Until there is a larger enough amount of evidence, this issue will remain a highly debatable and passionate topic, fueling the continuation of long-term studies.
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