Marijuana Causes Long-term Brain Changes

Now that marijuana has been approved for medical and recreational use in a few U.S. states, heated debates over its safety are swirling in the media.  Although marijuana doesn’t necessarily pose the same immediate, life-threatening dangers as alcohol, we have seen that chronic, long-term use does cause significant brain changes—chiefly, slowed activity in the frontal and temporal lobes; areas of the brain involved with focus, concentration, motivation, memory, learning, and mood stability. 

Dr. Kabran Chapek has witnessed this first-hand at our Bellevue Clinic in Washington State, where marijuana was legalized for medical use in 2012. 

 

He says, “I’m not surprised when someone with anxiety tells me that they use marijuana or alcohol to help them sleep, or calm their nerves. It’s predictably people with over activity in their brains and problems like anxiety or PTSD who use sedating substances—we can see it on their SPECT scans.

The problem with marijuana is that it’s not selective.  Not only does it calm the parts of the brain that are overactive, it calms the entire brain—long-term—through a slow and insidious process.”

 
 
 
 

Some argue that marijuana is not addictive, but as this study demonstrates, it is a drug like any other.  Anything that makes us feel good—be it food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, gambling, or sex—causes a rewiring of the pleasure centers in the brain and intensifies cravings for it.

When someone stops using marijuana, significant irritability is common as the temporal lobes regain full functioning.  According to Dr. Chapek, one can expect to see improvements in motivation, concentration, and focus after abstaining for just 2-3 months.

Click here to find marijuana case studies from the Amen Clinics.

At the Amen Clinics, we can help you learn how to calm anxiety and overactive brain activity without causing long-term issues.  Call us today at 1-888-208-2057 or tell us more to schedule an appointment.

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  • jazzfan47

    Of course marijuana is a drug, like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar … yes, it might be debatable what’s more harmful between it and the latter. The problem, I feel, with focusing on it like you have is that you are pandering to the political prejudices that have developed over the last 80 years about marijuana. If you drink too much water, it can be harmful; in fact, doing anything in excess can be harmful. The point is that you are contributing to a bias that is anything but objective and realistic, and siding with those whose evaluation of marijuana is not balanced and who are not presenting the whole truth. Marijuana has its positive and negative aspects. However, it has been unfairly demonized for political and economic reasons.

    • Fred Swenson

      Then how come I feel the same sense of mental fatigue and memory problems after experiencing epileptic seizures and auras as I did when I was smoking pot?

    • Scott711

      Dr. Amen is providing clinical evidence that marijuana has detrimental effect on the human brain. His bias is legitimate because of his research. Your own bias is the problem here. It has caused you to interject false motives for his work. Your message is riddled with paranoia. Sorry jazzfan but the marijuana your probably smoking is damaging your brain. You don’t like the FACT that this TRUE information is being publicized. Get over it and be honest with yourself. You know deep inside that its not harmless.

      • jazzfan47

        I don’t even remember the last time I had marijuana. The problem is that society has the bias, not me, and that’s what I’m pointing out, as others have in their comments. I agree marijuana has detrimental effects if abused, but so do a whole host of legal substances if done to excess. And that is the problem. When you
        feed this bias with general information that is not clear about how much
        marijuana individuals have used, then you sanction the lies and distortion of
        the truth about marijuana that have plagued our society for nearly a century, and has made countless people criminals for doing something that is far less damaging than many other legal activities.

      • m bc

        Scott:
        Ok… marijuana has a negative effect.
        So do alcohol, tobacco, stress, lack of exercise, chocolate cake, and many other things.
        The question is not simply whether marijuana is entirely benign.
        Rather, the questions include:
        1. Is marijuana less harmful than other intoxicants, like low fat ice cream is better than premium super fat ice cream?
        2.Is marijuana useful for those millions without health care and access to medicine using it to self-medicate?
        3. Is marijuana of medical benefit as to treatment of disease, curative or ameliorative of side effects?
        4. Would making marijuana legal have a benefit in terms of saving billions spent to arrest, prosecute, and jail those using it … and by not adding the brain, general health and life impacts of a conviction and jail to the brain impact of ,smoking marijuana in the first place?
        5. Could more research on medical uses for marijuana be of great benefit to public health, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta has concluded.

    • David George

      JazzFan47: You’ve got to be kidding. Right? You’re saying that you “feel” the problem… is that they (Dr. Amen’s clinic) are pandering to the political prejudices?
      It’s them pandering… that’s the problem?
      And you further “feel” that they are … anything but objective and realistic?

      I’m going to guess that you’ve not actually looked at the brain scans that are now available. They clearly and unequivocally I’ve been researching the neurosciences for the last six years. Motivated by the desire to significantly improve my genetically inherited ADHD, I have sought out many, many, different solutions since 1990. Since then I’ve been very proactive in trying different things. Many of them could only be truly evaluated over a six month window. Go through 10 different regiments and suddenly five years has passed by.

      November of 2012 I knuckled up and had a SPECT study performed. I broke the bank to do it, too. The bottom line: it works. Period. I’ve had more improvement over this last year than the previous 23 years combined!

      I have two friends that have been smoking marijuana since high school. Their lives have been a train wreck ever since. Both of them have begun following a LITTLE of the Amen Solution with good success. They’ve had more improvement than they’ve known their entire lives (so they tell me).

      Trying to arguing with the findings and results of SPECT scans is just as absurd as arguing you didn’t eat the chocolate cake when you’re covered in it and they have you on video camera feasting on it.

      If you’re using Marijuana, you’re self-medicating. And if you’re self medicating, you’re not happy and are obviously covering something up with it. Happy, healthy, well adjusted people neither need, nor want, anything in their body messing up their joy and clarity of mind.

      Instead of fighting for a band-aid to mask your pains, that literally destroys your brain – physically – and ultimately pushes you to an even more sickly and more painful place, you COULD choose to focus on actually healing yourself and growing beyond the pains of the past. That’s where Dr. Amen’s clinics have truly paved the way for the rest of us to follow.

      • jazzfan47

        I don’t believe you get the point I’m trying to make. Marijuana has been so demonized by society that its use has been criminalized, and many have gone to prison because of it, and this doesn’t even factor in the problems caused by the black market that has resulted. The point is that there are many legal substances that are more toxic and more harmful. In fact, some substances in marijuana have been shown to have many curative properties but because of this demonization they have been ignored or shunned.

        • m bc

          Hi Jazz:
          Good comment. I agree with you generally, and that David seems not to really understand the import of your comment.
          There are three distinct issues raised by Dr. Amen’s article and the comments.

          1. The impact of extensive and extended use of marijuana on the brain.

          2. .The medical potential of marijuana, and

          3. The impact of marijuana laws on society and brain health.

          Clearly all foods, environment, and substances we ingest (actively and passively) impact our bodies.

          Marijuana is no different, though we should keep in mind that all marijuana is not the same. Strains vary in delivery and effects, with some providing more energy and others calming effects. Also, some components of marijuana can be heightened or even specifically put in prescription medicine form.

          We are still learning as to the direct and secondary impacts of substances on the brain.

          As with diet choices…. there are bad, good, better, and best choices and impacts. Is marijuana less harmful than alcohol on brains and lives? Or than various prescription drugs?

          Clearly Dr. Amen’s research indicates that recreational marijuana use has negative impact, especially (as with most things) when used frequently and over a long period of time.

          That said, these effects seem less harmful to the brain (and life generally) than many other substances that people ingest, and thus may be a “lesser evil” than alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational intoxicants.

          This relates both to substitution of marijuana for these other intoxicants and, also, their use generally whether for recreation or medicinal purposes.

          Of course, avoiding all recreational intoxicants would be ideal, though such is not how most Americans conduct their lives.

          Regarding medical potential for marijuana, we must acknowledge that millions of Americans actually use substances (like marijuana) that rare typically recreational in nature to self-medicate for real medical conditions.

          Many even use food in this way, as Dr. Amen’s research has demonstrated.

          Self-medicating (with marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs) for depression, anxiety, PTSD, pain, etc….is particularly widespread among the tens of millions without access to health care and prescription drugs.

          The Affordable Care Act will help considerably, but millions remain without financial or functional access to health care, including particularly many poor and marginalized populations.

          As for medical marijuana.,I personally know several cancer patients for whom marijuana helped with chemotherapy side effects. In a few cases the Oncologist suggested the patient try marijuana for such purpose.

          I wish more studies had been done over the past 30 years to explore therapeutic benefits of Marijuana. Unfortunately, illegality together with governmental and medical prejudice (also drug company interests) against marijuana complicated funding and access, which greatly limited such research. Fortunately, that is changing.

          From what I read, new preliminary research seems to show potential for marijuana as an actual cancer treatment. Likewise for MS, Autism, and many other diseases.

          Until recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a widely respected neurosurgeon who declined the post of Surgeon General and is the Chief Medical Contributor to CNN, had been highly skeptical about medical marijuana benefits.

          Following an extensive review of current benefits and ongoing research into potential medical benefits of marijuana, Dr. Gupta now supports legalized medical marijuana and expansion of broader research into its potential medical benefits. If interested, see his in depth report on CNN.com

          Yes, I am concerned about side effects, and am grateful that Dr. Amen is researching and contributing to the knowledge and awareness of such.

          All prescription drugs have side effects too, and many of these are quite serious or even fatal for some patients.

          Researchers need to determine the comparative risks and benefits of marijuana as medicine and, where appropriate, patients should be free to make an informed choice about treating with medical marijuana.

          In some cases, marijuana may be uniquely curative or provide better and safer treatment for some patients, particularly those for whom such use is for a limited period of time.

          Only time and research will tell. But it seems very likely that marijuana will have a place in the arsenal of medicine.

          Regarding illegality… America spends nearly 20 Billion dollars to arrest, prosecute, and imprison millions of Americans for marijuana related crimes every year. Far more than we spend on drug treatment.

          Sadly, the odds of conviction and jail are exponentially higher for the poor and minorities.

          Marijuana convictions have had horrific impact on the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

          Time in jail, wasted human potential, family disruption, impact on ability to enter college or become professionals or otherwise get jobs, even losing the right to vote. And the wasted time and potential of those arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning them.

          This mindboggling waste of money and human potential is obscene and self-defeating. Not from marijuana use, but from laws that make such use a crime.

          Just imagine what we could have accomplished, and can accomplish, if we applied this 20 Billion dollars a year and all of that human potential to other purposes.

          Is the impact on brain health of being arrested, prosecuted, and in jail far worse than that of using marijuana in the first place?
          I welcome any further thoughts you might have.

        • Tamie Carolus Person

          What i hear you saying is that there are other substances more dangerous? That is definitely true! However, that doesn’t change the fact that marijuana is dangerous. Strychnine is more dangerous than LSD but I wouldn’t choose to use either of them!

          • jazzfan47

            Please don’t compare marijuana with LSD — they are radically different in intensity and danger. Marijuana is not “dangerous.” You are brainwashed by the societal view which is based on a lot of untruths like the one you are conveying.
            I tried LSD, decades ago — more than 40 years – and marijuana, so I can categorically say that there is a huge difference in the effects of these substances. And I also would say that strychnine is not necessarily more dangerous than LSD — it depends on the amount you ingest.

      • Mark Dates

        David , I’m brand new to this stuff but when you say you ,knuckled up and had a SPECT study performed” “and it worked” what EXACTLY helped your ADD with the SPECT study and what aspects of it got you the best results and what improvements in your ADD were noticeable as opposed to self medicating?

        • m bc

          Hi Mark:
          I also have ADD, and wanted to explain that the scans (in and of themselves) are able to identify and explain certain aspects of how ADD impacts the brain.
          The impact varies from person to person, and the scan provides understanding and diagnosis to help select and use offsetting techniques to reduce such impact.
          These range from diet and exercise to medications, targeting which are most effective to a given brain, and affording the ability to gauge effects of treatments.
          In a way… the scans help us “self-medicate” with lifestyle and medical options.

      • m bc

        HI David:

        There are three distinct issues raised by Dr. Amen’s article and the comments.

        1. The impact of extensive and extended use of marijuana on the brain.

        2. .The medical potential of marijuana, and

        3. The impact of marijuana laws on society and brain health.

        Clearly all foods, environment, and substances we ingest (actively and passively) impact our bodies.

        Marijuana is no different, though we should keep in mind that all marijuana is not the same. Strains vary in delivery and effects, with some providing more energy and others calming effects. Also, some components of marijuana can be heightened or even specifically put in prescription medicine form.

        We are still learning as to the direct and secondary impacts of substances on the brain.

        As with diet choices…. there are bad, good, better, and best choices and impacts. Is marijuana less harmful than alcohol on brains and lives? Or than various prescription drugs?

        Clearly Dr. Amen’s research indicates that recreational marijuana use has negative impact, especially (as with most things) when used frequently and over a long period of time.

        That said, these effects seem less harmful to the brain (and life generally) than many other substances that people ingest, and thus may be a “lesser evil” than alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational intoxicants.

        This relates both to substitution of marijuana for these other intoxicants and, also, their use generally whether for recreation or medicinal purposes.

        Of course, avoiding all recreational intoxicants would be ideal, though such is not how most Americans conduct their lives.

        Regarding medical potential for marijuana, we must acknowledge that millions of Americans actually use substances (like marijuana) that rare typically recreational in nature to self-medicate for real medical conditions.

        Many even use food in this way, as Dr. Amen’s research has demonstrated.

        Self-medicating (with marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs) for depression, anxiety, PTSD, pain, etc….is particularly widespread among the tens of millions without access to health care and prescription drugs.

        The Affordable Care Act will help considerably, but millions remain without financial or functional access to health care, including particularly many poor and marginalized populations.

        As for medical marijuana.,I personally know several cancer patients for whom marijuana helped with chemotherapy side effects. In a few cases the Oncologist suggested the patient try marijuana for such purpose.

        I wish more studies had been done over the past 30 years to explore therapeutic benefits of Marijuana. Unfortunately, illegality together with governmental and medical prejudice (also drug company interests) against marijuana complicated funding and access, which greatly limited such research. Fortunately, that is changing.

        From what I read, new preliminary research seems to show potential for marijuana as an actual cancer treatment. Likewise for MS, Autism, and many other diseases.

        Until recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a widely respected neurosurgeon who declined the post of Surgeon General and is the Chief Medical Contributor to CNN, had been highly skeptical about medical marijuana benefits.

        Following an extensive review of current benefits and ongoing research into potential medical benefits of marijuana, Dr. Gupta now supports legalized medical marijuana and expansion of broader research into its potential medical benefits. If interested, see his in depth report on CNN.com

        Yes, I am concerned about side effects, and am grateful that Dr. Amen is researching and contributing to the knowledge and awareness of such.

        All prescription drugs have side effects too, and many of these are quite serious or even fatal for some patients.

        Researchers need to determine the comparative risks and benefits of marijuana as medicine and, where appropriate, patients should be free to make an informed choice about treating with medical marijuana.

        In some cases, marijuana may be uniquely curative or provide better and safer treatment for some patients, particularly those for whom such use is for a limited period of time.

        Only time and research will tell. But it seems very likely that marijuana will have a place in the arsenal of medicine.

        Regarding illegality… America spends nearly 20 Billion dollars to arrest, prosecute, and imprison millions of Americans for marijuana related crimes every year. Far more than we spend on drug treatment.

        Sadly, the odds of conviction and jail are exponentially higher for the poor and minorities.

        Marijuana convictions have had horrific impact on the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

        Time in jail, wasted human potential, family disruption, impact on ability to enter college or become professionals or otherwise get jobs, even losing the right to vote. And the wasted time and potential of those arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning them.

        This mindboggling waste of money and human potential is obscene and self-defeating. Not from marijuana use, but from laws that make such use a crime.

        Just imagine what we could have accomplished, and can accomplish, if we applied this 20 Billion dollars a year and all of that human potential to other purposes.

        Is the impact on brain health of being arrested, prosecuted, and in jail far worse than that of using marijuana in the first place?

        Dr. Amen is a brilliant scientist, who with real insight has explored and utilized technology and applied such to brain function and health.

        Not only has Dr. Amen greatly expanded our understanding of the brain on a groundbreaking level and helped a great number of people, personally. He has also changed the public understanding of brain health, and potentially improved the lives of millions of people by the remarkably clarity of his books and presentations.

        Having read all of his books and seen many of his presentations on TV, I have great admiration and respect for Dr. Amen as a scientist and physician.

        As an aside, due to a brief telephone conversation with Dr. Amen, wherein he offered to help with an ADD and brain issue regardless of insurance, I was touched by his genuine and heartfelt concern for an individual he had never met.
        This is the mark of a true healer.

        I would be interested in your thoughts as to my response to your comment.

    • Heiné de Waal

      Jazzfan, maybe you did not get it. The article clearly states, “The problem with marijuana is that it’s not selective. Not only does it calm the parts of the brain that are overactive, it calms the entire brain—long-term—through a slow and insidious process.”

      It is not about HOW MUCH someone consumes, it is about using it or not.

      • jazzfan47

        No, you don’t get it. If you tested every substance for its effect on a person’s brain, there would probably be many substances that we consume every day that have consequences. The point is that pot is illegal because of political and economic bias, not because of the dangers of its use. Chamomile tea calms the brain too; should we test it for its insidious effect? This societal pressure regarding pot has prevented people from looking at it objectively and rationally, people like yourself.

        • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

          What gives you the impression I do not get it? Are you saying a specialist such as Dr Amen are talking nonsense?

          The article is about marijuana, not about others substances. You come across as someone in total denial about the effects of dope on the brain.

          • jazzfan47

            Heine, you’re not only demonstrating your bias but your ignorance by calling marijuana, dope. There are many legal substances that are more deserving of the term.

            I never said he is talking nonsense. It goes much deeper than that. You obviously are in total denial about the truth regarding marijuana and the lies that have been foisted on us by government and business (the tobacco industry in alliance with the FDA in America). Because of this bias, you are unable to see the truth.

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            jazzfan what specific have I said that gives you the impression I am in denial?

          • jazzfan47

            You don’t acknowledge the bias that exists, the bias that has developed over nearly a 100 years of propaganda broadcasting false information about marijuana and exaggerating its negative effects, propaganda that has been reinforced by harsh laws against its use.

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            I can only acknowledge what is true. I have a medical science and natural healing background. The evidence speaks for itself. Marijuana causes long term brain changes. In extreme cases schizophrenia. Yes, there is a place for controlled use by doctors, but not as a recreational drug.

            Maybe you are projection some of our own denials and biases?

          • jazzfan47

            You still don’t get it … lol
            Let me ask you? Do you drink alcohol? Would you say that in moderation it is not harmful?
            And where do you get this idea that marijuana causes schizophrenia? Well, how much and how long does a person need to use marijuana to cause this? If you abuse alcohol you get cirrhosis as well as a number of other conditions.
            You don’t get the point, Heine. I said from the start, even supposed harmless substances can cause harm when they are abused. So, should we make water illegal because someone might drink too much of it?
            Get the point now?

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            Yes the point is that your reasoning is irrelevant.
            Dr Amen’s article is not about alcohol or water. It is about Marijuana. Also, it is not about HOW much marijuana you consume, it is about consuming it or not.

            If you do not know that smoking cannabis can cause irreversible schizophrenia than it is clear you are lacking the knowledge.

            My opinion is based on my own knowledge gained from specialists in the field of neuroscience and psychiatric. Why should I believe you?

          • jazzfan47

            You are as thick as Adolph Hitler and just as prejudiced. Open your mind. Dr. Amen’s article gives credence to the lies and false information that have been circulated for so many years. Not that what he is saying isn’t true about long-term use, but that’s the point. Long term use of many “legal” substances can be harmful as I pointed out in my simple example. The main point is that we need balance when considering marijuana and that it should be a legal substance. Again, you refuse to address my point. Do you use alcohol?

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            No, I do not use alcohol. And you point is?

            Now that you have insulted me. Do you think I would value your opinion about cannabis?

          • jazzfan47

            My point is that you are an idiot because you won’t address the issue of criminality, which is the major part of my point. Instead you use red herrings in an effort to ignore my point because you can only see your point and not mine. I am willing to accept your point about long-term use, but then that is something that is so general and not scientific in its consideration and exactly what is missing from Dr. Amen’s article — measurement, amounts, etc, and why it is misleading.

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            So you point is that I am idiot because I do not want to address the issue of criminality?
            So help my understand what is the reason I HAVE to address it?

          • jazzfan47

            Because it’s a very important point and the one that needs to be considered. It was made illegal not because its long term use can cause harm. Tobacco and alcohol are legal and cause more harm. It was made illegal because of political and economic pressures. As a result, people are made criminals because of this. This needs to be considered in the big picture. Ignoring it is immoral and unethical.

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            That might be an important point for you. It is not for me.

            Because alcohol and Tobacco are harmful to people does not make cannabis good. Maybe you need to visit Mike Mike Stratton’s website.
            http://www.droppingpot.com

          • jazzfan47

            Well, it should be. If not, you show a lack of concern for others who have been tripped up by the misinformation and lies surrounding marijuana. It’s a crucial point. I don’t how many examples I need to give you. But you apparently have the mindset of a dictator who only knows black and white. I don’t need to visit his site. I know about marijuana use from personal experience when I was much younger. I do know people who continued its use over the years and were adversely affected. But these were people who truly abused the substance.

          • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

            It only shows I have different values then you do, nothing else.

            I had enough of your insults. I am done with this conversation.

          • jazzfan47

            Read my other comment … It’s your kind of thinking that led to the gas chambers.

          • jazzfan47

            Yes, but alcohol and tobacco are legal, yet they are more harmful. Doesn’t that strike you as being hypocritical? So, then, you believe they should be illegal too, correct. If that is your logic for marijuana, then it should follow for tobacco and alcohol.
            Then what about the legal system, the prisons that need to contain all these lawbreakers, and the black market that evolves and the stimulus to organized crime?

          • jazzfan47

            And no, my reason is not irrelevant. It’s very relevant to the people who are made criminals for smoking a joint of a substance that is relatively harmless when used in moderation. Will you acknowledge that alcohol is much more harmful than marijuana … I’m sure medical science will acknowledge that fact. And what about tobacco, another high toxic substance that is legal. Your tunnel vision has not allowed you to consider my point. Just because you have a medical background is pointless in this discussion because you won’t acknowledge other factors that enter into this discussion. Your mind is as closed as the Nazis who said Jews were inferior.

          • Lindsay23

            Your view of this topic is obviously extremely polarized and politically-focused. I live in Colorado where marijuana is legal for recreational use and many, many, many youth (and adults) believe that smoking it is not at all harmful. There is at least one study that shows lower IQ scores in youth that smoke, and another study that shows stunted physical and endocrine development in youth that smoke. This information from Dr. Amen is timely and necessary within the overall discussion about marijuana. You don’t have to like the truth that these medical doctors and psychiatrists deliver, but try not to block yourself from considering this facet of reality. This is not a black and white topic and there is a LOT of grey area.

          • jazzfan47

            There is no gray area when it comes to the criminalization of marijuana. It is a political football, for sure, and that is what I’m focusing on.
            First of all, no one who supports legalization is suggesting that kids should be smoking marijuana, just as minors are not legally able to use alcohol.
            The problem is the focus on marijuana when a lot of other substances are more harmful and toxic, like the whole host of pharmaceutical drugs that your friendly doctor prescribes like aspirin. Many of them are life-threatening.
            I’m focusing on the hypocrisy regarding marijuana. It only was made illegal because of the tobacco lobby in the 1930s. And in more recent years it has been a means to fill our prisons so they can make huge profits. Will abuse of marijuana cause harm, undoubtedly. But that is not the point I am making. It’s that in comparison with many other legal substances, it is only mildly harmful, and that it should not be illegal, and that it is only legal for political and economic reasons,
            Dr. Amen’s article, while factual, feeds into the prejudice and untruths that “reefer madness” hysteria created 80 years ago. The lack of specificity about the details of the use also is a problem. Ok, I mistakenly said the 25-year-old daily user was a 25-year user. Nevertheless, we still don’t know how much and the level of THC in the marijuana that person was using. This is important to know.

          • Lindsay23

            Here we have uncovered the source of your contention. This mini-article was not political… in any way… yet you and many others have picked it apart for its LACK of political commentary. As it reads, it was not intended to be a “fair and balanced” view of the issue at hand. It was a short report on what the Amen Clinic doctors have seen in the people who willingly come to them for help. Your comment regarding the “host of pharmaceutical drugs that your friendly doctor prescribes like aspirin” shows that you don’t at all understand Dr. Amen’s approach to psychiatric diagnosis and treatment, which gives the rest of your commentary and criticism very little credibility. Have you ever read one of Dr. Amen’s books? Furthermore, the comment of “how much and the level of THC in the marijuana that the person was using” is irrelevant, as the recreational and medical establishments do not even disclose this information to those who purchase. At best, the customer is informed of the strain(s) within the flower or extracted product – that’s it. Perhaps your energy is best directed toward the political arguments that you are so passionate about, vs here on this forum which is medically-focused.

          • jazzfan47

            Yes, I have read one of his books and thought it was excellent. The point is that you can’t divorce a discussion of marijuana from politics. It has been politicized for 80 years! That is the problem, I think. When I read this article, it seems that Dr. Amen was already influenced by this bias. Not that his science is wrong but that focus on the ills of marijuana in isolation from so many other substances that are more harmful yet legal promotes this continuing bias. To say it’s harmful in isolation from these substances gives power to those whose bias is political and economic and who want to suppress its use, medicinal or otherwise.

        • tickledmpink

          I get what you are trying to say. Part of the issue is its different for different individuals. For discussions sake, its interesting that alcohol is legal but marijuana is not. I did not get any bias from Dr. Amen’s article, my perception is he presented information on marijuana and how it can effect your brain. Legalizing it might weaken organized crime etc, legalizing it can also lead to chaos. Drug industry is huge and whether right or wrong people rely on it as an income. That wouldnt even be the biggest issue. The black market and organized crime will move on to something else they can push as they always have. I don’t know if its fair to say people dont look at it rationally or objectively. Not only do people have personal experience but experience of those around them who have been affected for good or bad. There are a lot of large issues at hand. I think with anything you read you take what you can from it and apply it appropriately for how it can be beneficial to you.

    • Daniel Lefebvre

      I don’t think this is about political bias. I believe that this (like most of the articles on this site) suffers from sensationalism. Its not a news story to say that abuse causes damage, so the tag line is “MARIJUANA CAUSES LONG-TERM BRAIN CHANGES” because that, as the expression goes “sells papers.” I find most of the content on this site to suffer from the same sensationalist reporting. They irresponsibly post conclusions from insignificant studies as fact and as we see in the above article make outrageous claims based on lopsided observations. Does Marijuana abuse case long term side effects, I’ve never heard anyone argue that it doesn’t, so why report this as such, except to get web traffic. If they really cared about helping people they would do studies on the effects of limited, casual and medical use and recovery times. Thanks for your post.

      • jazzfan47

        Good observation. Recovery times … hmmm … the stress it seems by Dr. Amen is long-term or chronic use. He does not address casual use and what if any effects it might have.

  • cliffnme

    MRI’s don’t lie look at the evidence. I know I man who has been using marijuana for back pain for a couple years. He says he’s really noticing a problem with his memory and slow thinking. So he’s trying to limit his use to twice a week. But his brain damage is permanent.

    • DadsGreenLife

      Probably related to other problems, not just cannabis use. Excess sugar will damage your brain too. Continuing to placing the blame solely on cannabis does not look at the rest of his health or lifestyle.

    • m bc

      Extremely unlikely that use for a couple of years could have any impact.
      .
      If smoking pot makes him slow thinking… my guess is that he will be fine when he stops.
      .
      Note that Percocet and other pain killers have the very same side effects… and are highly addictive.

  • MichTBI

    I agree wtih Jazzfan47 – what is the level of use of marijuana that causes problems? When I had the spect scan at the Amen Clinic – no signs of marijuana use showed up even though I have sporadically used marijuana for 37 years. And because I had a significant undiagnosed TBI from a child hood accident, the very moderate use of marijuana over the years was attributed to having my brain being as high functioning as it was. And it was suggested I continue using it in the same moderate manner as I had (about 4 – 6 times a month in a very light amount). As it was obviously helping my brain considering the range of the TBI I had that was NOT related to any marijuana use based on the spect scan results. I think the issue with brain functioning is with people who are heavy marijuana users – just like you’d expect to have anyone who was a heavy user of caffeine or alcohol, or sugar to have brain problems too. But what does heavy use mean? Also, I go for months and at times several years without using marijuana without any impact for withdrawal (I do crazier during these times though). The majority of people I know have a very low use of marijuana like I do and for this level of use, like it my case, it might actually be therapeutic. So it’s good it’s being legalized as why demonize something like this – that is where the crazy thinking comes in. PLUS with it being legal, then the strains people prefer are easier to come by. I prefer what we like to call tee hee girl weed. And nothing makes for a bad time when you get a batch of stuff that puts you into a catatonic stupor after one puff. This is the problem with it being illegal too. The serious stoners, well they were serious stoners even with it being illegal. Just like the alcoholics were alcoholics even with prohibition. Legalize it, make it so you can get less potent strains if this is what you prefer. And help people who really have a problem with it. Because in my case it took a scrambled brain and helped me become a highly functioning contributing member of the population. I highly doubt I would have accomplished what I have thus far in life without it.

    • m bc

      Hi Mitch:
      Glad to hear you are doing well…. keep doing whatever works for you.
      .
      America spends nearly 20 Billion dollars to arrest, prosecute, and imprison millions of Americans for marijuana related crimes every year. Far more than we spend on drug treatment.
      .
      Sadly, the odds of conviction and jail are exponentially higher for the poor and minorities.
      .
      Marijuana convictions have had horrific impact on the lives of tens of millions of Americans.
      .
      Time in jail, wasted human potential, family disruption, impact on ability to enter college or become professionals or otherwise get jobs, even losing the right to vote. And the wasted time and potential of those arresting, prosecuting, and imprisoning them.
      .
      This mindboggling waste of money and human potential is obscene and self-defeating. Not from marijuana use, but from laws that make such use a crime.
      .
      Just imagine what we could have accomplished, and can accomplish, if we applied this 20 Billion dollars a year and all of that human potential to other purposes.
      .
      Is the impact on brain health of being arrested, prosecuted, and in jail far worse than that of using marijuana in the first place?

  • Susan Turner

    Thank you for this article. What about enhancing the body’s natural processes to help? In 1958 the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association approved hypnosis as a viable therapeutic tool. It has the potential of re-wiring the brain without the addictive properties of drugs. Self hypnosis is easy to learn. Just a thought.

    • m bc

      Interesting comment…. Worth a try.
      Thank you

  • mr rascal

    “Reefer Madness” lives on.

  • Laurie Murdock

    So you refer to a study, but you do not cite one. You later provide a link to marijuana “case” studies, which we know are very limited in their usefulness. I would like to see the citation to the study you refer to.

    • Lindsay23

      I see that the study is a link within the text (it is blue)

      • Laurie Murdock

        I see the link Lindsay, but the way this article is written, all of its assertions are based in some study. The study in blue is very limited and certainly does not support the statements in the article. If that is what the author intended, it is very disingenuous indeed.

        • Lindsay23

          As I read it, the assertions are based on the culmination of their work as psychiatrists and brain imaging specialists.

          • m bc

            Hi Lindsay,
            Until recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a widely respected neurosurgeon who declined the post of Surgeon General and is the Chief Medical Contributor to CNN, had been highly skeptical about medical marijuana benefits.

            Following an extensive review of current benefits and ongoing research into potential medical benefits of marijuana, Dr. Gupta now supports legalized medical marijuana and expansion of broader research into its potential medical benefits. If interested, see his in depth report on CNN.com

          • Lindsay23

            Hello,

            I recall that Dr. Gupta’s report, “Weed,” demonstrated the medicinal benefits of CBD, the non-psychoactive compound vs. THC.

    • m bc

      Until recently, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a widely respected neurosurgeon who declined the post of Surgeon General and is the Chief Medical Contributor to CNN, had been highly skeptical about medical marijuana benefits.

      Following an extensive review of current benefits and ongoing research into potential medical benefits of marijuana, Dr. Gupta now supports legalized medical marijuana and expansion of broader research into its potential medical benefits. If interested, see his in depth report on CNN.com

  • Llzkfan46

    Is there a difference from eating it versus smoking? What about brain scans of MS patients where it shows repair of some of the MS damage after using marijuana?

    • jazzfan47

      The difference is no consequences for your lungs.

  • Emily A.

    When I was in my car accident, I was not taking any drugs or chemicals into my system beyond simple over the counter pain killers on occasion. The process of healing my body through chiropractic, physical therapy, and massage 3 days a week stressed and taxed my body daily. I was in constant pain. I was not able to think well. I could not work or concentrate on anything for months on end.

    The result of the pain and constant inflammation and healing was a stupor of thought, slow brain feelings, and lack and loss of memory. The same thing happened to me after I gave birth to my son. It took many months for me to regain my typical brain function.

    Isn’t it possible that these side effects are simply a result of a body suffering from physical stress? How is cannabis anymore harmful than over the counter or prescription medication? If you want to do a study on the harmful effects of cannabis, you have to start with a population of people that have NO physical miladies, and then use them as a baseline. You can’t take sick people and study them and then come to a conclusion based on your observations of someone that already has a history of medical issues. This is not good science.

  • Bill Romance

    Thanks for the article Dr. Amen … your materials and programs have helped me more than you’ll ever now. I knew that medical marijuana was legal in DC, but I’ve been hearing more about it’s general use in Colorado, since I have friends that live there. No matter what the political climate is … the facts remain the same ….. so I just stay away from it …. problem solved.

  • zendad

    I have been smoking cannabis since I was 15, I’m now 60. It has helped me spiritually and physically. It helps me in my meditation and reduced my arthritis pain. My wife knows I’m stoned when she sees me doing things around the house that I avoiding for days. Cannabis does cause congestion in the lungs when smoked continuously for long periods, that’s why I only smoke one week per month then clean out my lungs for the remainder of the month. If it was legal and cheaper, I would be eating it instead!

  • Janelle Adams

    People, smoking weed and taking cannabis oil internally are completely different!! Ingesting cannabis oil cures many diseases cancer included. Smoking weed gives temporarily relief from ailments but will not rid the body of disease. Check out http://www.phoenixtears.ca

  • lisa petrusich

    I’m a former chronic (daily) pot smoker, a habit I was slave to for over 15 years. At the time, I believed “I couldn’t live without it”.
    I alternate between amusement and sympathy for those who habitually indulge, yet claim no adverse effects. If these scans and the study aren’t convincing enough, I would like to recommend that they seek out either the website, or physically attend a meeting of M. A.
    I was lucky enough to go to some of the first meetings in Berkeley way back in the 70′s. It was a real eye opener. Who knew that pot could destroy lives? Not me or anyone I have ever talked with about it. Even to this day.
    I have often suggested to friends and family who I’ve seen struggling with the effects of their chronic pot smoking, to check it out. I’m always met with these same arguments I’ve read here on the blog. While I think there are legitimate medical reasons to use it, I’m seeing this huge groundswell of pro-pot thinking that has me alarmed.
    I’m aware of the nefarious and underhanded politics that caused it to be made illegal. Very similar to what happened during prohibition, and definitely a black mark on our history. I’m for decriminalizing it, even legalizing it. But I cannot agree that it’s chronic use is harmless. It wasn’t for me, nor is it for any of the people I know who use it daily.
    I’d like to repeat here, if you have doubts, go to a meeting of Marijuana Anonymous.

    • jazzfan47

      You abused it, Lisa. Not everyone does. And that is what causes problem with many other substances — abuse. People shouldn’t be made criminals for using a substance that causes little harm if done moderately.

  • David George

    For those wanting to learn more, here are few things to watch:

    The most important lesson from 83,000 brain scans:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esPRsT-lmw8

    Daniel Amen – Change Your Brain, Change Your Life:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLKj1puoWCg

    Amen Clinics – 12 Ways SPECT Imaging Can Help You
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV1Ql3rDJlE&list=PLioD4n0NwU5w7ZEb7AjPssB-GXPze-XQ0
    (if the above playlist doesn’t work, just search on the title within YouTube)

    SPECT Images of various drug damaged brains:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRf1DC2RXvY

    (sorry… didn’t know it was going to post those huge images in here. Thought it would just have the text and links only) Anyway, enjoy.

  • Bob Smith

    I agree with jazzfan47 and would add that the headline “Marijuana causes long-term brain changes” is most likely to be mis-understood to say something like: “Marijuana causes long-term brain damage” or “Marijuana is dangerous”.
    How about giving a more balanced picture of the facts such as Marijuana is much, much safer than alcohol.
    This article presents a biased view – it only mentions drawbacks and fails to mention any positive benefits.
    This article might be used by those who have ruined people’s lives for the past 50 years with their brutal laws.
    I don’t drink or use drugs and would never recommend them, however the laws need to be changed from a “let’s lock everyone up that doesn’t agree with me” mentality and this type of article does not help.

  • Yeshe Dorje

    I see no longitudinal studies, or controlled studies. What other variables may be involved remain unanswered.

  • Thea

    my husband is a psychologist and worked in the rural communities in western australia. one community was built using money from selling marijuana; The community had a large population of long term users. His experience was that depression was a standard complaint and many people he worked with had nerve damage, for example not being able to hold a hammer and hand tremors which were experienced by a significant number of men who were builders. The community had become a group of lazy unhappy people with various health problems. I think you would have to go there is see the undesirable long term (20 years) affects of marijuana use along with the horror stories of trying to quit the marijuana. These problem’s are what prompted the Australian gov. to hire my husband.

  • Mike Stratton

    Dr. Amen,

    I’m a Federally Certified trainer in the field of working with marijuana abusers and addicts. I’m also a pot head who has been clean and sober for 23 years. Many of the defensive reactions to this research are similar to what I hear in my office on a daily basis. It’s a process for someone to begin to look at their use and to begin to contemplate the negative side of their relationship to marijuana.

    I’d love to link to your work via my marijuana blog: http://www.droppingpot.com, if that’s okay with you. And any other chances to work or refer to each other would be welcomed.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Mike Stratton
    http://www.droppingpot.com

    • http://heinedewaal.com Heiné de Waal

      Thank you Mike for the work you do. I can imagine that it is not easy to work with minds which are not rational.

  • Steve

    The good doctor’s view about marijuana does not take into account the stimulating and other positive effects of sativa strains, nor does it account for the benefits of CBDs in cannabis, including the juicing of raw cannabis (much higher dosages of CBDs), which has no psychoactive effect on the mind (because the THC has not been heated or aged). It’s an incomplete story he tells.

    • m bc

      Steve,
      Dr. Amen is in a field that is extremely valuable and important, but which has not been developed to the extent it will be. He is a pioneer and has effectively advanced both diagnostic and treatment options beyond what has been available.
      .
      I have enormous respect for Dr. Amen and his work. He is brilliant, insightful, and unlike most doctors, he effectively communicates with and educates the general public thru books, seminars, and television shows.
      .
      You are right that some information is missing… as to strain, dosage, etc….
      .
      Dr. Amen is initially indicating that brains change when exposed to various substances… and that marijuana has such an effect in heavy longtime users.
      .
      As some have claimed that marijuana is entirely benign, Dr. Amen is simply showing that this is not always true.
      .
      My guess is that there is more to follow.

      • Thalia Michelle

        I would very much appreciate him differentiating between Cannabis Oil ( prescription grade with HIGH CBD:THC ratios) and the smoking of marijuana for medicinal purposes. There is a very big difference and his failure to recognize this is a gross negligence that perpetuates ignorance around the issue.

  • Thalia Michelle

    Marijuana and CBD are two different things. They come from the same source, but are not the same. Cancer treatments, epilepsy and autism treatments are making HUGE gains using CBD. Cannabinoids in CBD oil have ZERO side effects and are not psycho-reactive. Please research proper medicinal cannabis products and don’t waste our time with articles about pot smoking.

  • Sandra Regina

    Everyone has their own opinion about Marijuana….Remember, Dr. Amen specialize on informing the World about his research and studies….this is not a debate….his justifications come from proven studies. I believe in his work !

    • jazzfan47

      I believe in his work too, but when he uses the scan of brain of a person who has been a daily user for 25 years as proof of its harm, I question his objectivity.

      • Lindsay23

        Incorrect – 25 YEAR OLD person who was a daily smoker. Not smoking for 25 years.

  • cakers

    This argument is not about the bias about marahjana, but about the effects it has on the brain. What Daneil amen is showing in the spec scan ,and what he is finding is not good. This information is important, so you can make wise healthy choices. It is about making a choice what you put in you body, that either will give you heathy or unhealthy brain. Do you want your brain to function ? or work harder. Do you want to struggle in your life with a diseased brain because you did not take care of it? That is your choice . Frankly, I would rather have my brain to work right, eliminate all risk factors that would damage my brain by not putting a hamfull substance like marahjana or any other drug in my body.

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