Does looking at a hand pipe, bong, or rolling papers trigger the need to get high in a stoner? That’s the consensus of a new study that finds drug paraphernalia has the power to activate reward centers in the brains of marijuana users and produce a need for weed.
Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas recently published this research in the latest edition of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, which indicates the brains of drug users and those of sober society react differently when subjected to stoner stimuli.
The science supported by conservative, anti-pot politics would like society to believe that the potential for marijuana addiction is a valid concern. While the National Institute on Drug Abuse claims that cannabis has a nine percent addiction rate, the federal agency fails to mention that weed is no more of a detriment than caffeine, which has the same risk for dependence.
Researchers say their latest findings provide evidence that marijuana is, in fact, addictive. “We know that people have a hard time staying abstinent because seeing cues for the drug use triggers an intense desire to seek out the drugs,” said lead researcher, Dr. Francesca Filbey, with the Center for BrainHealth in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “That’s a clinically validated phenomenon and behavioral studies have also shown this to be the case. What we didn’t know was what was driving those effects in the brain.”
To make this determination, researchers conducted MRI brain scans of 71 regular cannabis users, half of which were classified as dependent, after giving them either a pencil or a hand pipe. What they found was after the participants were handed marijuana paraphernalia, the reward center in their brains (nucleus accumbens) was activated, while the pencil provoked no excitement whatsoever.
Researchers say marijuana activates similar areas of the brain that are often triggered by highly addictive substances like nicotine and cocaine. Incidentally, what they fail to mention is that the reward centers in the brain can also be triggered by the anticipation of good food. “Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine,” according to WebMd.