Watch it! Smoking marijuana really DOES make you lazy – Study

Smoking cannabis really does make people less motivated, say scientists.

Long-term use of the drug destroys dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain that inspires a spirit of  get-up-and-go.

Previous research has suggested taking  marijuana can lead to individuals becoming withdrawn, lethargic and  apathetic.

Now a new study has shown levels of dopamine  in a part of the brain called the striatum – found towards the side of the brain  and involved in motivation – were lower in regular cannabis users.

Lazy: Marijuana smokers are often stereotyped as being apathetic. Lazy: Marijuana smokers are often stereotyped as being  apathetic. Now scientists have discovered that the drug affects production of  the feel-good chemical dopamine in the area of the brain responsible for  motivation

Dr Michael Bloomfield, of Imperial College  London, said: ‘Dopamine is involved in telling the brain when something exciting  is about to happen – be it sex, drugs or rock ‘n roll.

‘Our findings explain why cannabis has a  tendency to make people sit around doing nothing.

‘The results weren’t what we expected but tie  in with previous research on addiction which has found substance abusers have  altered dopamine systems.

‘Although we only looked at cannabis users  who have had psychotic-like experiences while using the drug we think the  findings would apply to cannabis users in general since we didn’t see a stronger  effect in the subjects who have more psychotic-like symptoms. This needs to be  tested though.

Previous studies have shown that cannabis causes people to become withdrawn and lethargic
Previous studies have shown that cannabis causes people  to become withdrawn and lethargic

‘It could also explain the “amotivational  syndrome” which has been described in cannabis users but whether such a syndrome  exists is controversial.’

Some claim there is no such condition saying  a person who fits this description could in fact be showing signs of depression  or chronic intoxication.

PET (positron emission tomography) scans on  the brains of 38 people – 19 regular cannabis users and 19 non-users – found  less dopamine in those who smoked more and those who began taking the drug at a  younger age.

The researchers said this could explain why  some cannabis users seem to lack motivation to work or pursue their normal  interests.

The cannabis users in the study published in  Biological Psychiatry had all experienced psychotic-like symptoms while smoking  the drug such as strange sensations or having feelings of paranoia.

The researchers expected their dopamine  production might be higher since this has been linked with psychosis – but  instead found the opposite.

The cannabis users had their first experience  with the drug between the ages of 12 and 18 and the researchers believe the drug  could be the cause of the difference in dopamine levels.

The lowest dopamine levels were seen in users  who met diagnostic criteria for cannabis abuse or dependence – raising the  possibility this measure could provide a marker of addiction  severity.

Previous research has shown cannabis users  have a higher risk of mental illnesses that involve repeated episodes of  psychosis such as schizophrenia.

Dr Bloomfield said: ‘It’s been assumed  cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia by inducing the same effects on the  dopamine system we see in schizophrenia but this hasn’t been studied in active  cannabis users until now.’

Other studies have looked at dopamine release  in former cannabis users and not seen differences with people who haven’t taken  the drug – suggesting the effects seen in this study are likely to be  reversible.

Dr Bloomfield said: ‘Cannabis is an illegal  drug and there is mounting evidence the idea of it being a harmless herb is not  true.

‘When people stop taking cannabis it seems  the brain can slowly go back to producing pretty normal levels of  dopamine.

‘Cannabis has effects on the brain and it’s  important people can make an informed decision.’

Read more: DailyMail

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