Weed May Change Brain Chemistry Permanently

Liz Filmer
31 May 2022

A top neuroscientist has warned that many younger cannabis users might be minimising the potential long-term effects of the drug.

Dr Yasmin Hurd, a top U.S. neuroscientist, has warned that the 'high' created by the drug changes a person's brain chemistry and may even potentially put them in danger of developing extreme psychiatric issues.

Cannabis comprises over 500 chemicals, including over 140 cannabinoids with varying psychological and physical effects. Dr Hurd explained that THC is often known as the chemical in the drug that causes the high and interacts with endocannabinoids in the brain. Endocannabinoids are responsible for defining the way that cells in the brain interact with one another. THC interacts with the receptors creating the "high" feeling people get from consuming the drug.

'If it feels intoxicating, it is because it is binding to a receptor and changing your brain. The question is, for how long does it increase your risk for psychiatric disorders? Dr Hurd asks.

Many cannabis users, particularly younger ones, believe the drug causes little harm. Whilst weed is not regarded as damaging or addictive as drugs like alcohol, cocaine or heroin. There are still potential dangers of repeated use that specialists may not have yet unravelled. 

Hurd states that around 30 per cent of those who regularly use cannabis also live with a psychiatric disorder. However, the problem comes in trying to identify whether it is the drug causing the psychiatric issues. Could it simply be that people who already suffer from a psychiatric disorder may be more likely to reach for weed to deal with the stress of their condition?

Another issue is cannabis use among pregnant women, which reportedly may interfere with the unborn child's brain development leading to abnormalities and higher risks of psychiatric problems. Whether cannabis is good for us or bad for us, the one thing we do know for sure is that cannabis use is on the up. It is legal now in recreational or medicinal form in all but six states in the U.S. It is legal in both formats in 18 states. Science needs to catch up quick and give us some definitive answers.

A recent CBS poll found that two-thirds of U.S. citizens supported the "legalise" cause at state and federal tiers. No surprise that 79% of Democrats and 67% of independents support the idea. The big shock was that even 50%of Republicans supported it. A Poll from 2021 reported that 50% of American adults had tried cannabis at least once. We are constantly hearing about all the great medical uses that cannabis may have. Still, in the times we live in, where more people are opening up to cannabis, it is responsible to consider both sides. 

We need to equip ourselves with the information and possibility that there may be some significant adverse impacts of cannabis use. After all, once upon a time, no one thought tobacco was harmful to your health! I hope this is not the case, but we cannot and should not rule it out.

Liz Filmer