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Long Term Marijuana Use and The Brain

October 28th, 2012 · No Comments

Many people experiment with cannabis during their adolescence and early adulthood, and new research shows this is a particularly dangerous age because the brain is still developing. A recent study reported in the Oxford University Press found compelling evidence that brain reacts differently to cannabis exposure that commences during adolescence compared with adulthood.

The aim of the study was to examine the “white matter” pathways within the brain to see if they are changed through long-term heavy cannabis use. It was also hypothesized that the earlier someone started heavy and regular cannabis use the more severe the affect would be on these pathways in the brain.

White matter is the tissue through which messages pass between different areas of gray matter within the brain. Using a computer network as an analogy, the gray matter can be thought of as the actual computers themselves, whereas the white matter represents the network cables connecting the computers together.

There are three different kinds of tracts, or bundles of axons which connect one part of the brain to another and to the spinal cord, within the white matter: projection tracts that extend vertically between higher and lower brain and spinal cord centers; commissural tracts cross from one cerebral hemisphere to the other through bridges called commissures; and association tracts that connect different regions within the same hemisphere of the brain.

To measure the effect of cannabis on the “white matter” pathways, the study looked at long term habitual users of cannabis with a minimum usage of twice a month for the past 3 years (although most recruited in the study had substantially greater use than this) and compared them with healthy non-users. In-depth brain imaging and brain connectivity mapping techniques were performed in each of the 59 cannabis users with longstanding histories of heavy use and the 33 healthy non-users who served as controls.

After examining the habitual heavy cannabis users, researchers found the axonal pathways were impaired in the right fimbria of the hippocampus, splenium of the corpus callosum and commissural fibers. It is also important to note that all of these areas that were impaired have an abundance of cannabinoid receptors.

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Tags: Marijuana Addiction

Alcohol, Drugs and Holidays

December 19th, 2008 · No Comments

Daniel Amen, MD is a physician, psychiatrist, author and a pioneer in brain imaging.

In his recent newsletter, he states that January is the busiest month in mental health treatment nationwide. For many, the holidays bring a lot of unpleasant memories, unrealized expectations and stress. It is easy to get into the comfort zone of overeating, isolating and abusing alcohol and drugs.

Unfortunately, the temporary relief provided by indulging wears off fast and leaves you feeling worse. And, the damage you do to your brain sets the stage for repeated failure.

As to brain scans, Dr Amen discovered that a healthy scan shows full, even, symmetrical activity. Drug and alcohol abuse tended to cause overall decreased activity in the brain. These brains looked more aged, more shriveled, and more toxic than the brains of people who did not use drugs.

Heroin and heroin-like drugs, called opiates, caused severe decreased activity, as did much alcohol. Methamphetamines and cocaine tended to cause what looked like multiple holes or mini-strokes in the brain. Marijuana caused decreased activity in the frontal and temporal lobe areas (areas involved with memory and motivation).

One of the most powerful lessons learned from imaging is that many people who abuse substances are really trying to change their own brain chemistry (self medication).

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders

Which Brain Do You Want?

April 25th, 2008 · No Comments

The proof every person must see about drugs, alcohol and the brain!

SEE FOR YOURSELF on DVD how drugs and alcohol damage your brain . . .

Meet five young people from different backgrounds, with different levels of substance abuse, including two who chose to stay clear of drugs or alcohol.

Hear their stories and learn about the impact their choices have had on the quality of their lives.

Next, look at the scans of their brains. See for yourself how their choices; good or bad; have affected the health of their brains.

The candid conversations between these young people and Dr. Daniel Amen, a pioneer in the use of brain scans, are revealing. They want to know if it’s too late . . . and they want another chance . . . now that they realize they DO have a choice.

The question echoes in their ears . . . Which Brain Do You Want?

This powerful, high-energy production includes . . .

* How the brain works
* How the brain is involved in everything you do
* What happens when the brain “misfires”
* The physical impact of drugs and alcohol on brain function
* How to improve your brain

I have this DVD and it is . . .

A MUST-SEE FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS WHO WANT TEENS TO KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT DRUGS AND ALCOHOL!

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders

Images of The Brain on Drugs

April 24th, 2008 · No Comments

Dr. Daniel Amen is a pioneer in brain imaging. He has written numerous books including, Change your Brain, Change Your Life. He has taken thousands of brain scans comparing normal brains and “drug abused” brains and his work indicates that brain scans of people who have abused drugs showed abnormalities.

The Amen Clinic has a SPECT Image gallery that contains fully animated 3-D images as a learning resource. Each animation is presented in a full 360 degree rotation.

There are comparisons of normal brain images and brains that have been affected by alcohol and drugs.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders

ADHD and Street Drugs

August 7th, 2007 · No Comments

Researchers have generally known that people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are more likely than others to smoke cigarettes and abuse alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other street drugs.

In a recent study, a team led by Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, documented decreased dopamine activity in the brains of a group of adults with ADHD. Dopamine is associated with feeling good.

The researchers compared brain scans on 19 adults with ADHD — average age 32 — who had never received medication for the condition to brain scans of 24 healthy adults of a similar age without ADHD.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Street Drugs

Marijuana Use Damages The Brain

June 2nd, 2007 · No Comments

Psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, is a pioneer in scans called brain SPECT imaging. SPECT stands for single photon emission computed tomography and measures blood flow and activity patterns in the brain.

It basically tells three things: areas of the brain that work well, areas of the brain that work too hard and areas of the brain that do not work hard enough.

In studies of patients who had smoked marijuana, Dr. Amen found significant changes in brain activity, especially those who were heavy users. Decreased brain activity was found in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Marijuana Addiction

SPECT Brain Scans

May 31st, 2007 · No Comments

Standard brain MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and CAT (computerized axial tomography) scans are anatomical studies, and although they can evaluate what a brain looks like physically, they cannot provide information on how well the brain works.

SPECT is an acronym for “Single Photon Emission Computerized Tomography”, and it is a sophisticated nuclear medicine study that “looks” directly at cerebral blood flow and indirectly at brain activity (for metabolism).

A small amount of radioactive isotope is injected into the patient’s vein, where it runs through the bloodstream and into the brain. The patient then lies on a table for a few minutes while a SPECT “gamma” camera rotates slowly around the head. A supercomputer then reconstructs offline images of brain activity levels.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders

Brain Scans Reveal Cause of Smokers’ Cravings

April 24th, 2007 · No Comments

This information about smokers cravings was recently released from Duke University:

Brain scans of smokers studied by the researchers revealed three specific regions deep within the brain that appear to control dependence on nicotine and craving for cigarettes. These regions play important roles in some of the key motivations for smoking: to calm down when stressed, to achieve pleasure and to help concentration.

“If you can’t calm down, can’t derive pleasure and can’t control yourself or concentrate, then it will be extremely difficult for you to break the habit,” said lead study investigator Jed E. Rose, Ph.D., director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research. “These brain regions may explain why most people try to quit several times before they are successful.”

In this study, the researchers manipulated the levels of nicotine dependence and cigarette craving among 15 smokers and then scanned their brains using positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to see which areas of the brain were most active.

Three Regions of the Brain are Important for Smokers

Three specific regions of the brain demonstrated changes in activity when the smokers craved cigarettes versus when they did not.

One region that lights up, called the thalamus, is considered to be the key relay point for sensory information flowing into the brain. Some of the symptoms of withdrawal among people trying to quit stem from the inability to focus thoughts and the feeling of being overwhelmed, and could thus be explained by changes in this region, according to the researchers. The researchers found that changes in this region were most dramatic among those who said they smoked to calm down when under stress.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Smoking - Nicotine Addiction

Addiction and The Brain

April 1st, 2007 · No Comments

Brain chemistry is crucial to the optimal function of the brain and body. Research shows that many addictive people have a flaw in the way they process sugar and carbs. An addict responds to sugar as if it were alcohol.

How can you expect to function at an optimal level if you are not getting the correct nutrients to the brain cells?

Specific types of brain scans can help determine various brain disorders and what areas of the brain need attention. We will be providing further information on this as we go along from our own research observations.

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Tags: Drugs and Brain Disorders · Main