Formation of Habitual Use Drives Cannabis Addiction

Posted on June 14, 2019

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China and University of Bonn, brain imaging was used to understand the individual differences regarding dependency on cannabis. Results suggest that regions associated with rewards and habits in the brain distinguishes heavy cannabis users who are addicted from those who are not.

Cannabis-related images were shown to the participants of the study while monitoring their brain activity. Not all of the cannabis users recruited for the study are dependent on the drug, but they were all heavy users. Compared to non-cannabis users, the participants who consume the drug heavily showed high activation in the ventral striatum, a region in the brain that processes rewards. Dependent cannabis users also showed high activity in the dorsal striatum, which controls habit-forming.

The results hence show that not all heavy cannabis users are necessarily addicted. Although the use of cannabis is stimulated by the brain’s reward system, it is not solely responsible for one’s dependence on cannabis. The addiction may be caused by neural systems which control the formation of habits. As a result, dependent users automatically consume cannabis because it is a habit instead of taking it for the enjoyment they expect from it. Further observations on the neural activity of dependent cannabis users have suggests that other brain areas may amplify their desire to seek cannabis.

As cannabis is now legal for medical purposes in some countries, studies like this can enable health professionals to understand why some individuals are more prone to cannabis addiction. Such findings can also give rise to better treatment methods with lesser side effects.

Category(s):Addictions, Drug Addiction

Source material from Science Daily