Study Finds That Smoking Marijuana Changes the Brain

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Andrea Chamberlain Says Research Shows It’s Time to Stop Making Light of Pot Use

Some states are legalizing Marijuana while others are lessening the punishment for using it. President Barack Obama has even downplayed its severity by calling it a “bad habit.”

Every day, headlines seem to carry the “it’s no big deal” message about smoking marijuana. But a new study shows that pot use is indeed a “big deal” because long-term marijuana use actually changes the shape of our brains. Researchers from Harvard and Northwestern called the study the first “to show casual use of marijuana is related to major brain changes.”

For years, the media, lawmakers and even some parents have made light of smoking pot. This new study, however, has found that two neural regions that control emotions and motivation actually become mis-shapen after repeated pot smoking.

I’ve seen firsthand that marijuana is a gateway drug, leading both teens and young adults to more serious and damaging drug use and addiction—once their increased appetites see the effects of pot are not enough.

The disillusionment about pot in our society is truly a crime. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is a serious drug that opens users up to further experimentation with more dangerous drugs. But even if they don’t progress to ‘more potent’ drugs, this new study shows that pot actually messes with our brains, changing the shape of key structures that control our emotions, memories and how we process pleasure and reward. Marijuana use is serious, and our society is opening the door for further abuse by downplaying use and possession as a punishable offense.

Do we really want to legalize a substance that—after even casual or recreational use—actually damages our brain’s circuitry and wiring, and thus the actual functioning of our brains? Our mind is God’s greatest creation and it determines our life course, let’s preserve it, not damage it.

The research team for the study included experts from Northwestern and Harvard Medical Schools and Massachusetts General Hospital, who compared MRIs from the brains of 20 recreational marijuana smokers and the brains of 20 non-users. They then compared measurements of the nucleus accumbens, the section of the brain that contributes to pleasure and reward, and the amygdalas, which plays a role in emotional memory and in evaluating negative consequences. The researchers’ findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

karl-benzio-1 Dr. Karl Benzio MD, Christian Psychiatrist, writer, speaker, media guest expert, social issue activist, and the founder and clinical director of Lighthouse Network. Benzio brings scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s storms. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students about counseling, leadership, parenting, marriage, and conflict resolution skills in traumatized areas like Uganda, Kenya and post-Hussein Iraq. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council, the Pennsylvania Director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics, and serves on many other social policy task forces. His specialties include adolescents, addictions, decision-making and infusing spirituality into treatment. Benzio shares psycho-spiritual insights via his Stepping Stones daily devotional, on his one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” on 425 Christian radio stations and on


Twitter: @drkarlb

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