Findings help explain how the brain becomes dependent on cannabis and why not all cannabis users develop an addiction
Ever wondered why some people become addicted to cannabis and some don’t?
A new study conducted by the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and the University of Bonn in Germany suggests it may be possible to diagnose cannabis addiction and potentially monitor when heavy use could transform into addiction.
The research indicated there is a shift in the brain from its reward-driven portion to its habit-driven portion, potentially illustrating a way to diagnose addiction.
The research project, published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, aimed to provide insight as to why not all cannabis users become addicted. Participants categorized as heavy consumers were monitored for shifts in brain systems while using cannabis. Findings show promising evidence pertaining to how the brain changes under chronic consumption conditions.
While study participants reported heavy use of cannabis, not all of them met the requirements to be considered addicted to the drug. All participants showed an exaggerated response in the reward region of the brain, the ventral striatum, compared to non-users. However, those who had an addiction showed activity in the habit portion of the brain, the dorsal striatum.
“Cannabis is now legal for medical and recreational use in many parts of the United States and the health impacts of this development are still being understood,” noted Dr. Cameron Carter, editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. “These findings are important insights that can help us better understand why some individuals might be more likely to become addicted to cannabis,” Dr. Carter added.
Researchers suggest being able to differentiate between the brain systems for addicted and non-addicted users could be a powerful tool in understanding and combating cannabis addiction. These results are also promising for doctors who want to monitor their cannabis patients to ensure they don’t become addicted to their medication.
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