-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Can chronic pot smoking
really turn people into slackers?
According to a small brain-scan study, long-term marijuana use
may indeed reduce people's motivation levels.
The findings could explain why some marijuana users lack the
drive to work or pursue their previous interests, said the
researchers at Imperial College London.
The researchers used PET brain imaging to assess dopamine
production in the brains of 19 regular marijuana users and 19
non-users. Dopamine is a chemical linked to motivation. The brain
scans showed that the regular marijuana users tended to produce
The marijuana users in the study had their first experience with
the drug between the ages of 12 and 18. Those who started using the
drug at an earlier age tended to have lower dopamine levels, as did
those who were heavier users.
The researchers said these findings -- published recently in the
Biological Psychiatry-- may be the cause of the differences
in dopamine levels.
The lowest dopamine levels were seen in people who met
diagnostic criteria for marijuana abuse or dependence. This
suggests that measuring dopamine levels could provide a marker of a
person's level of addiction to marijuana, the study authors
"[The findings] tie in with previous research on addiction, which has found that substance abusers -- people who are dependent on cocaine or amphetamine, for example -- have altered dopamine systems," study leader Dr. Michael Bloomfield said in an Imperial College London news release.
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about
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