The Effects of Marijuana

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Marijuana has certainly been in the news! Most headlines contain the words “medical marijuana”, “hydroponically grown”, “legalization”, “cannabis club”, or release the latest name of a famous public figure that has admitted to using pot for recreational or medical purposes.

Although marijuana has physical effects, it’s the mental effects that have caused it to be the most used, illicit psychoactive drug in the world. pexelsmarijuana

Recent reports indicate marijuana use has more than doubled in the past decade. Although it’s often portrayed as harmless, and sometimes even therapeutic, marijuana causes significant brain changes by slowing activity in the frontal and temporal lobes.  Why is that to be of any real concern?  Because these are the areas of the brain involved with:

  • Focus
  • Concentration
  • Motivation
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Mood stability

Human beings have 100 billion cells that make up the central nervous system which help the brain communicate with the outside world.  Marijuana effects the neurotransmitters (messengers) ability to communicate with one another and thereby send and receive mixed messages in the centers of the brain (temporal lobe, frontal lobe, amygdala, and hippocampus) that store and/or effect:

  • Emotions
  • Organization
  • Self-Control
  • Planning
  • Decision Making
  • Judgement
  • Memories
  • Insight
  • Thoughts
  • Learning from mistakes

Anything that makes a person feel good—be it food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, gambling, or sex, etc. —causes a rewiring of the pleasure centers in the brain and intensifies cravings for it.  Addiction then, means anything that impedes or impairs your life, your emotions, and your ability to make or adapt to change. Damage to these areas of your brain have a tremendous impact not only in the “now” of when you are using marijuana, but on your future cognitive and physical abilities.

When it comes to addiction, you need to think about your children’s future as much as your own since it comes with a generational toll. Your brain does not complete its development until the age of 25 years. pexelsfriends

New evidence suggests that teenagers who smoke marijuana may be affecting themselves and their future children. Not only that, but research is showing that if you begin using at 15 years of age or earlier, your brain development is being hijacked.  In other words, if you begin using at 15 years of age and decide to stop at age 25 years, your brain reacts as an adult at the point in which it damaged.  So, 25 years old or not, your brain computes your decisions and behaviors as 15 years old.

As an adult, these areas of your life, although not limited to, can have consequences in how you respond and/or react to circumstances: brainheartseesaw

  • Relationships
  • Anger Management
  • Marriage
  • Emotional Control
  • Divorce Reasoning
  • Parenting
  • Ability to Adapt to Change
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Impulsive Decisions
  • Reasoning
  • Rational Thought Processes

Another study shows that offspring of parents who were addicted to drugs or alcohol are twice as likely to be depressed in adulthood as compared to their peers whose parents were not addicted. Parents need to understand the importance of supervision when it comes to experimentation with drugs.  Depending upon the substance, brain development can be permanently delayed.

Most young adults start developing personal and life goals, such as going to college or pursuing a career, by age 14. That’s why it’s important to be more involved in the decisions your children are beginning to make, and recognize as well, where some of your decisions were affected if you used drugs yourself in your early adolescence.

So, what’s the big deal, in relation to just a little pot experimentation? You decide if the risk outweighs the consequences.  Addiction happens quickly and does not discriminate in users.

Recovery and rehabilitation is a process and has consequences involved in withdrawal:

  • Anger
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Aches
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Pains
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Chills
  • And more craving for the drug

Breaking the pattern of marijuana dependency can be difficult and may involve entering a drug recovery program, going to counseling, and/or participating in a 12 steps group.

To further assess your recovery needs, call 678) 920-2608 for an appointment.

Childhood: Brain, Memories & Drugs

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Did you know that you are born with almost every nerve cell you will ever have for your entire life?

You start with about 100 billion neurons in your brain. Over time, your environmental influences affect the 100 trillion connections that develop along those nerve cells.  Current research is finding that it takes at least 20 to 25 years for the brain to become “hard-wired” in forming the major and vital connections associated in the “decision-making” part of the brain, which is the control circuit.

The environmental influences that you are exposed to are varied and can have both negative and positive effects on how you begin to form choices, such as not using or using drugs.

Some of the environmental influences that determine the use of drugs related to:

  • Sexual/Physical/Emotional Abuse 
  • Stress
  • Love
  • Nutrition
  • Living Conditions
  • Family Relationships
  • Neighborhood Safety
  • Quality of Education
  • Peer Pressure
  • Internet & Television Content

Research shows that interactions, particularly in the home environment, actually make new nerve cell connections, create memories, and even alter a person’s neurochemistry, thereby determining the level in which a person will or will not use psychoactive drugs.  Many studies are now showing a direct link between major behavioral health problems like addiction and serious mental health issues with traumatic life experiences such as an adverse childhood.  Dr. Kim T. Mueser at Dartmouth found that 90% of all behavioral health patients had at least one traumatic experience in their life, many of them had more than one.

The following environmental truths make psychoactive drug abuse more likely:

  • Stress is the norm rather than the exception
  • Physical/Emotional/Sexual abuse or trauma occurs
  • Drinking and/or other drug use is common in the home
  • Healthy ways of processing stress or anger are not modeled & learned (self-medicating occurs)
  • Societal influences (TV, Internet, Peers, etc.) make drinking, smoking, drugs normal escapes
  • Easy access to legal and illegal drugs
  • Pre-existing mental health problems that are aggravated by the home environment stressors
  • Nutritional deficits during brain developmental years

Since your brain takes about 20 to 25 years to become “hardwired” in the decision-making (control center) part of your brain, an adolescent who disrupts this process by drug use becomes vulnerable to making poor decisions  and damaging impulse-control behaviors like drug abuse.  This is important because changes that occur, in the brain, in the first 10 years of life are the most influential, especially if they were changed by a traumatic event.

Children who grow up in chaotic homes, and are subject to excessive emotional pain, remember that pain and begin to medicate that in different ways such as:

  • Trying to find people to help them understand why it happened
  • Learn they must face and accept what happened
  • Run away
  • Become hyperactive
  • Make jokes about their circumstances
  • Use drugs, overeat, gamble, or do other things that temper the pain and/or discomfort they feel

If the stress/pain a child feels continues long enough, the counter-behavior that they learn to “cope” with these feelings becomes ingrained into the brain as well.  The brain remembers the counter-behavior with just as much clarity as it remembers the stress/pain or trauma that they have experienced.

Here’s the good news:

Because the brain continues to both create and lose connections throughout a person’s life, the ability to change is always possible.  However, the older a person becomes, the more difficult it is to change.

At the Counseling, Coaching & Education center, we uphold the belief that God, when He intervenes, is capable of anything within His Will and calling upon your life.

He has Plans for you regardless of your circumstances.

 “Before I shaped you in the womb,  I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day,
    I had holy plans for you……Jeremiah 1:5 (MSG). 

You have been chosen, with Purpose.

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight….Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)

If you are interested in learning how to restructure your thoughts and renew your mind, we can give you life application strategies and suggestions, along with biblical instruction, on how to re-ignite the power center of your brain = your thoughts.  (Appointments only- call 678) 920-2608).

Philippians 4:8 is considered to be one of the most powerful and healing verses in the Bible as it gives instruction on how to begin taking control of your moment to moment thoughts, so that with the help of God, you can take more control over your behaviors. 

Neuroscience teaches that every time you have a thought, negative or positive, your brain releases chemicals.  Thoughts truly do influence your life and the choices you make! Think about that……..if you focus on negative thoughts and believe them 100% as truth, then you act as if the lies in your head are true……but if you focus on positive thoughts, healing begins.

In the last 40 years, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has developed = the correction of negative thoughts…………… God knows what He’s doing……..and this is an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, relationship problems and yes, even for addictions with a proper team of intervention.

To schedule an appointment for assessment of your specific needs, call 678) 920-2608.

Resources taken from Uppers, Downers, All Arounders: Physical & Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs, 8th edition, by Darryl S. Inaba, Pharm.D. & William E. Cohen (2014).