Groundbreaking Study Finds Potheads Love Pot

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Hot off the presses, a study has found that “Long-term marijuana use changes brain’s reward circuit,” and according to the lead researcher this change “correlates with the number of problems, such as family issues, individuals have because of their marijuana use. Continued marijuana use despite these problems is an indicator of marijuana dependence.” Well, this is very bad news for everyone who is addicted to the devil’s weed. Or is it? Let’s take a closer look!

This study involved 59 potheads and 70 non-potheads. In this case we’re using the scientific definition of “pothead” as a person who has smoked more than 5,000 times and smoked daily for the two months prior to the study. Non-potheads had never smoked pot in their lives.

All the subjects were put in fMRIs so researchers could watch their brains light up as they were shown various pictures. The pictures came in three categories: weed stuff, like joints and bongs; a piece of fruit; or a pencil. The subjects also stated how much they were craving weed after each image.

The findings will shock you: the potheads craved pot more after seeing pictures of pot paraphernalia, while the non-potheads did not. The potheads also showed more activity in the “reward” part of their brains when viewing pot paraphernalia compared to non-potheads.

In other words, potheads like pot. Even more than fruit and pencils!

As a side note, I have a friend who collects pencils. I wish she had been in this study just to blow some minds when her brain lit up at all those pictures of sweet, sweet graphite.

So how about those correlations with family issues and other problems related to drug use? Well, that came from giving the potheads a few surveys beforehand. One survey was designed for a previous study on withdrawal symptoms potheads experience after a period of abstinence, which obviously doesn’t even apply to this group of potheads because they’ve been smoking every day for the past two months. The other survey comes from a previous study on the ill-effects of drug use, and asks people to self-report family problems. The paper never actually reports how the potheads scored on this survey–they only say that the survey scores correlated with certain responses in certain areas of the brain when the potheads were shown pot. The researchers also didn’t bother to give their control group the same survey, so we have no idea what the potheads scored or if they actually have more problems than the abstainers.

In conclusion, don’t panic, and if you are panicking, maybe smoke some pot. Because for a lot of people, pot helps with that, which is why when you smoke it, your reward pathways light up and at some point you’ll probably want to smoke it again. Because it’s great. The end.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. From the abstract:
    …the positive correlations between neural response and indicators of cannabis use (i.e., THC levels) suggest that alterations in the reward system are, in part, related to cannabis use.
    If something feels good, you’re more likely to do it again. That shouldn’t really surprise anyone. You could probably find the same effect for chocolate, except that it would be difficult to find a control group without confounding factors.

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