Study: Long-Term Marijuana Use Linked To Changes In Brain's Reward's System?

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Sometimes you really have to wonder about the "scientific" studies which are being done on marijuana. Now there's a new one which says that because people who've smoked marijuana for years show more reaction to photos of objects used to smoke it than people who don't smoke marijuana when shown the same photos, that means cannabis "changes the reward system of the brain."

Researchers led by Dr. Francesca Filbey at the University of Texas at Dallas said they found that people who had used marijuana for 12 years, on average, showed "greater activity" in the brain's reward system when looking at pictures of objects used for smoking cannabis than when they looked at pictures of a "natural reward," their favorite fruits, reports Agata Blaszczak-Boxe at Fox News Health.

As if marijuana wasn't a natural reward, eh? It's no accident we have a human endocannabinoid system, people.

"This study shows that marijuana disrupts the natural reward circuitry of the brain, making marijuana highly salient to those who use it heavily," study author Dr. Francesca Filbey, an associate professor of behavioral and brain science at the University of Texas at Dallas, said in a statement. She's choosing, you see, to interpret natural learning, in which one discovers that marijuana is rewarding, as "disruption of the natural reward circuitry." That's patent nonsense, because that kind of "disruption" occurs every time we discover anything in the natural environment is rewarding.

"In essence, these brain alterations could be a marker of transition from recreational marijuana use to problematic use," Dr. Filbey claimed.

In the study, researchers studied 59 cannabis users who had used marijuana daily for the past 60 days, and had used the drug on at least 5,000 occasions during their lives. The researchers wanted to see whether the brains of these long-term users would respond differently to pictures of objects related to cannabis use than they did to "natural rewards" -- such as their favorite fruits -- compared with people who did not use marijuana.

Um, hello? Cannabis is more exciting than fruit, to many of us. This isn't earth shattering news, nor is it groundbreaking science.

The methodology seems tailor-made to produce reactions of dismay and horror among those who hold the irrational superstition that marijuana exists somehow outside the "natural world," despite the fact that we have receptors in our brains which specifically respond to it.

The researchers asked the cannabis users how they normally smoked the herb — whether, for example, they used joints, bongs or pipes. The researchers also asked the pot users what their favorite fruits were, according to the study, published in the May issue of the journal Human Brain Mapping.

Then, the scientists showed the participants pictures of the respective cannabis paraphernalia they normally used the most, as well as pictures of their favorite fruits, while scanning the participants' brains. Turns out that when people were shown photos of cannabis paraphernalia, they found those more exciting than pictures of fruit.

We are supposed to somehow be horrified by this "disruption of the reward centers of the brain" rather than accept it as part of the natural learning process as we explore our natural environment, presumably because it's marijuana and marijuana is bad, mmmkay?

For comparison, the scientists also showed the pictures to a group of 70 people who didn't use cannabis, and found that, completely unsurprisingly, those people did not show greater brain responses when they were shown pictures of random marijuana paraphernalia, compared with when they were shown pictures of their favorite fruits.

The only real surprise about this study is its absurd flimsiness and the surreal seriousness with which it was covered by Fox News. But then again, enough said: Fox News.