Essential Science: How Does Cannabis Affect the Brain?

Article by Tim Sandle, Digital Journal

Essential Science: How does cannabis affect the brain? LISTEN | PRINT BY TIM SANDLE 5 HOURS AGO IN SCIENCE The impact of cannabis on the brain is a subject of circling medical study and there are studies on both sides, offering different evidence and contrasting perspectives. We take in two recent studies looking at different aspects. People attend the Denver 420 Rally, the world's largest celebration of both the legalization of cannabis and cannabis culture, in May, in Denver Coloroado Jason Connolly, AFP/File A one-ounce (28.3-gram) bag of cannabis and a bowl of seeds rest on a table at the headquarters of the DC Cannabis Campaign on February 26, 2015, on the first full day of marijuana legalization in Washington New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government has already moved to legalise medicinal cannabis, with legislation on the issue working its way through parliament

Rates of cannabis consumption are increasing in many parts of the world, as countries (as with Canada) or the U.S. (as with the majority of states) either legalize consumption entirely or permit consumption for medical reasons.

There are different means of cannabis consumption, although inhalation (smoking and vaporizing) and ingestion are most common; and there are different grades of cannabis available. Smoking cannabis (or using a vaporizer) results in the psychoactive effect coming on faster but lasting for a shorter period of time, whereas ingesting cannabis leads to a delayed effect but with a longer-lasting ‘high’.

Cannabis and mental illness

There have been reports and studies on the association (or not) between cannabis consumption and mental illness, dating back to the 1950s. This remains a widely researched subject and one for which there is greater imperative, given the increased rates of consumption and with cannabis now becoming a significant contributor to many economies through an array of businesses developing and marketing cannabis products.

The complexity with the debate leads to discussions about whether certain individuals already have mental health problems; whether there are underlying potentials for mental illness which are triggered by people entering a more relaxed state; and other data which suggests that cannabis can be used to treat certain forms of mental illness, such as depression.

As a sign of the complexity, two studies have recently been published which reach different conclusions relating to cannabis consumption and mental illness.

No evidence of mental illness?

A review that compiles data from multiple research groups, gathered independently, which assessed the effects of cannabis exposure on the brain and intelligence scores, finds little impact of smoking cannabis on IQ scores or brain anatomy.

Read the full article here.

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