02 May 2014

Marijuana use linked to brain changes

New research links casual marijuana use to both changes in the brain and potential heart problems.


Marijuana, hemp, and cannabis are common names for plants of the genus cannabis. The term "hemp" is used for Cannabis plants that are grown for nondrug use, such as cannabis sativa.

Cannabis indica has poor fibre quality and is used to make drugs for recreation and medicine. The major differences between the two are appearance and the amount of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient of marijuana.

Brain changes

In one of two new studies, researchers collected MRI scans on young adults who casually use marijuana as well as on those who report no marijuana use. Various brain measurements were analysed, including grey matter density, brain volume and shape.

Read: Dagga shrinks the brain

The researchers found that marijuana users had greater grey matter density extending through various parts of the brain than those who did not use marijuana. The authors concluded that even casual recreational use of marijuana is associated with changes in the brain.

Heart problem link

In a second new study, researchers evaluated the potential link between casual marijuana use and heart problems.

All reports of spontaneous heart problems related to marijuana use collected by a French agency from 2006 to 2010 were identified. The researchers found that of the 1979 marijuana-related problems reported, 35 were cases of heart complications and 9 resulted in death.

The authors concluded that marijuana should be further reviewed as a potential risk factor for heart problems.

Read more:

Dagga harms foetal brain
Marijuana smoking affects brain chemistry


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