Researchers have found that cannabis experimentation on a casual basis can cause permanent brain damage.
Experts have said that it is not a safe drug to use and those under the age of 30 should never use it.
It has been found that people who used cannabis one or two times a week, over a few months, experienced changes in the areas of the brain that governs motivation, addiction and emotion.
Detailed 3D scans were done on the brains of students who stated that they had used cannabis casually. The researchers from Harvard Medical School in the U.S. compared the data with that of individuals who had never used the drug. They found two sections of the brain to be affected.
The researchers found that the more cannabis the students had used, the greater the brain abnormalities were.
Cannabis is an extremely popular drug of choice in Britain. The author of the research, Dr Hans Breiter who is a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine stated that the study raised a considerable challenge to the idea that casual use of marijuana does not have bad consequences. He said some people may only use marijuana as a means to get high a couple of times a week.
People are of the opinion that a bit of recreational use of marijuana will not cause any problems, particularly if they feel that their job or school work is not suffering. This study has shown that this is not so at all.
Dr Breiter has said that he is concerned about allowing anyone under the age of 30 to use cannabis, unless it is for medical reasons.
During the study the research team examined parts of the brain related to motivation, emotion and addiction. The participants were divided into 20 students who had not used cannabis and 20 who had. An Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Anne Blood, said these are fundamental, core brain structures and form the basis of how an individual assesses negative and positive features about the environment and how decisions are made about it.
The changes present in the brain are thought to be the first addiction steps. The altered processes of the brain changes the way it perceives pleasure and reward. It makes ordinary experiences appear to be less fulfilling compared with those experienced when drugs are being used.
A researcher from the Massachusetts General Center for Addiction Medicine, Jodi Gilman, stated that it may be that the brain is going through a form of drug learning. It appears that when people are on the road to becoming addicted, the brain recognises the connection.
Researchers have also found that people under the age of 15 who smoke cannabis have a quadrupled chance of developing psychosis. However, not many people are aware of these risks.
Professor David from Imperial College, London, stated that the sample of 40 people was not sufficient to draw conclusions about the effects. Professor Nutt was relieved of his duties as a drugs adviser to the government because of his views, added that whatever it is that cannabis is doing to the brain, it is not in the same league as the consumption of alcohol which is known to be a neurotoxin.
Image credit: D. Sinclair Terrasidius