The Effects of Marijuana: Healthcare Medical Device
Scientific studies released in mid-1997 indicate that people who smoke large amounts of marijuana may experience changes in their brain chemistry. These changes are similar to those seen in the brains of people who abuse addictive drugs such as heroin, cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol. All addictive drugs increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical responsible for causing feelings of reward. The new studies found (for the first time) that high doses of marijuana increased the levels of dopamine in the brain. Constant use of addictive drugs, however, can cause the brain to lose its ability to produce high levels of dopamine. When this happens, a drug user feels a greater need for the drug, or for even stronger drugs. Scientists believe this may occur with marijuana.
Users of addictive drugs feel withdrawal symptoms (feeling anxious, edgy, and unable to cope) when they stop taking the drugs. It was previously believed that marijuana users did not suffer feelings of withdrawal. However, the recent studies indicate that heavy users of marijuana smoke not so much for the “high” but to calm their feelings of anxiety brought on by withdrawal from the drug. Since THC is absorbed primarily in the fat tissues and lingers in the bloodstream, withdrawal symptoms are not as evident as with fast-acting drugs like nicotine.
In 1985, the FDA gave approval for the use of two psychoactive chemicals from marijuana to help prevent the nausea and vomiting many cancer patients experience after receiving chemotherapy. For these patients, THC can be prescribed in capsule form. Research suggests that compounds (other than THC) inhaled when smoking marijuana can also be used for medicinal purposes. Marijuana may help stop the weight loss in AIDS patients, it may lower eye pressure in people with glaucoma, it may control spasms in multiple sclerosis patients, and it may help relieve chronic pain.