Pot Addiction Study Tracks the Brains of People Who Really Enjoy Weed, Maybe Too Much

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If you can name this movie and it's your favorite, pay close attention to this post.
If you're high right now, you may want to tune in. Try not to giggle. A University Texas at Dallas professor was awarded nearly $2 million dollars to study marijuana addiction for the next five years. We're talking pot, the addiction suffered in silence -- or in inappropriate laughter at anything that sparkles, limps, jokes, cries or spins in circles -- by 10 percent of users. That figure comes from Dr. Francesca Filbey, director of addiction research at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas, who is orchestrating the study.

She previously found that not everyone's just a social smoker -- some people are genetically predisposed to becoming addicted to marijuana.

With this latest study, she's venturing beyond genetics and into environmental triggers and the brain's "reward system" response, indicative of addiction. It's the nature and nurture of marijuana addiction, which she says is more akin to that of tobacco than heroin. She explains that it's a significant issue given that pot is the most widely used illicit drug and is popular among adolescents, whose brains are still developing.

So, yes, people can be addicted to pot, Filbey maintains, though many people will argue otherwise until blue in the face between long breathy inhales. Furthermore, if you know 10 habitual users, you likely know an addict, according to her statistics.

Filbey's study, for which she is currently seeking participants, will evaluate 100 "chronic heavy marijuana users" and 100 nonusers over the next five years. She expects to find that stressors such as childhood abuse or serious tragedy make people more prone to becoming addicted.

As part of an initial questionnaire, participants will report the things they associate with the pleasure of smoking pot -- Doritos, smoky bongs, Frito pies, one-hitters, burgers, anything they crave when high or, in extreme cases, when wishing they were high. They will be asked to abstain from smoking from three days, then will be shown photos of their most euphoric stoner indulgences, pot paraphernalia and neutral images that are pleasant but not connected to their marijuana use. While they view the images, the blood flow in their brain will be recorded by an imaging machine to track their response to pleasure.

Nonusers will view a similar mix of images, and participants' brains will be imaged, in effect tracing what's most pleasurable to a person and whether they are at risk for addiction based on the way their brain reacts to the images.

"Because we know so little about how addiction manifests in the brain, this five-year research project will study how the brain responds to reward," Filbey says. "The ultimate goal is to characterize predictors of drug dependence in the brain that could lead to better prevention, intervention and treatment for drug addiction."

And no, UTD researchers will not be providing pot -- not even Frito pies. "How the drug is affecting their brain is not my research goal," Filbey says.

The goal is to better understand how and why people become addicted to marijuana to develop better treatment therapies that can also be applied to other addictions. "As you can imagine, when people don't think they're at risk it's basically a trial and error approach," Filbey says. "For those individuals who do become dependent, finding a way to better help them by learning more about the systems that are actually involved is the ultimate goal."

If you're thinking of Frito pie right now, seek help.


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72 comments
eddiered2809
eddiered2809

If pot is getting in the way of your life or having any other type of negative effect on you then maybe there is a problem! I am tired of all the bickering about whether or not weed is addictive.  There are people who use the drug every day.  There are people who steal so that they can get high.  There are people who get high and as a result their lives suffer.  There are also people who use weed safely and it adds to their overall well being.  Those are facts. So if someone finds that they have a problem then they should seek help.  There rightfully are places out there that offer help to people suffering from marijuana addiction (as well as other drugs).  I got help from a some reliving called New Life House.  Check out their site if you are looking for help. http://www.newlifehouse.com

Sonny Dae
Sonny Dae

Tough judgement,wouldn't want you for emotional support.

Jim Justice
Jim Justice

Luckily, marijuana itself doesn't doo much physical harm to the body, but I think it harms the mind. It's easy to bury your emotions under a cloud of smoke--marijuana acts as an effective barrier against feelings. For people who may have been predisposed to isolate themselves, this drug will exacerbate that predisposition.

The externalities of chronic marijuana use can include financial strain (spending money on pot before other things), emotional unavailability, lack of interest in daily life, repetitive activities, inability to concentrate. If one smokes on a daily basis for a long period of time (years), they are bound to lose out on what life without it has to offer. In some cases, one can even forget how to make friends or talk to other people.

I think many drugs in general diminish and weaken the mind, and pot is no exception.

Jonny Kush
Jonny Kush

Ummmm, yeah, but ummmm, it's non-lethal, no matter what silly conclusions they come to. Humans, by nature, will always have their vices/habits. So why not use the non-lethal one, if you're going to have one at all? They keep running these tests...but the results will never sway nature, humans have a cannabinoid system in their body, it's just the way it is, by nature. I can be addicted to food, too, and cannabis is healthier than fast food. So what's the point of all this?

Mini_av
Mini_av

At least this article doesn't seem biased and is compounded purely of fact and the author seems to know what they are talking about.

Shadow3749
Shadow3749

Guys, go do your own research and look up medicinal marijuana... Come to your own conclusions...

Judson Wallace
Judson Wallace

interesting how 1/10 smoke regularly... isn't that about the same rate of people that have mental disorders? sounds like 1/10th of the population is going to use something to ease their mental suffering (ie. self medicate) and their studies will continue to exploit their decision to do so. i know plenty of people that use marijuana instead of prozac, valium, etc....

T Panda
T Panda

I wonder how many World of Warcraft players, out of 10, are "addicted". Just saying... One out of ten is nothing for something they claim to be "addicitng".

www.Facebook.com/TokingPoints

Jesus
Jesus

Only the National Institute on Drug Abuse is would waste $2 million researching "pot addiction" when we have alcoholics and crackheads on the loose.  Everybody guard your Doritos from this menace to society.

Ron Gull
Ron Gull

it says that UTD will not be supplying the pot to the "chronic users". so it wouldn't have provided you any bud....which totally negates the studys' validity, because there is NO way of knowing how "chronic" the smoker is, and NO way to evaluate how much THC they're actually ingesting. i call BULLSHIT.

Paul
Paul

Let's see ... the consumption of a substance induces pleasure and euphoria in the brain of the person who consumes the substance ...

The person wants to consume more of the substance because pleasure and euphoria is induced ...

And why is it a stretch to comprehend that the user of the substance will continue to consume the substance?

Two substances come to mind ... alcohol and nicotine ...

I get no kick from champagneMere alcohol doesn't thrill me at allSo tell me why it should be trueThat I should get a belt out of youSome get a kick from cocaine ....

Thetruth
Thetruth

genetic predisposition is something i've always thought about. i always assumed men smoked it to lower testosterone levels so they don't kill everyone.

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

This is why I only smoke PCP laced with crack. It's like playing russian roulette with that ganja....you just don't know if YOU'RE gonna be the one to be addicted to the demon weed. So I's plays it safe!

Voidflakes
Voidflakes

Oh look, another "brains reward system indicates pot addiction" article. I see you forgot to mention that similar effects are shown when somebody provides a positive response to strawberries. Many people see strawberries as a refreshing summer fruit, denoting smiles and happiness and sunshine, to the point that they *must* eat strawberries because "it's what you do in summer" or some such. You will likely find that in changing your subject matter from cannabis to strawberries, your results will be pretty damn similar. In fact, they'll also be pretty damn similar if you put an OCD sufferer (the clean-freak type, anyway) in a dirty room for 3 days then show him pictures of bleach, a mop, and some soap.

I smoke cannabis to keep my mind under control, to prevent myself from being plagued by the many lovely issues caused by depression, autism, and misanthropic nihilism/pessimism - not forgetting that I've had Diabetes since I was 6 months old and have never been able to enjoy shovelling sugary treats down my throat without thinking that one day it will make me blind and I'll probably have to have my feet cut off, IF I don't die of ketoacidosis or hypoglycemia first...

I've smoked pretty much consistently for a few years now and have shown only improvements in my life & personality. I can certainly say I'm not addicted to cannabis, going without for a few months has never been an issue. What HAS been an issue, however, is that whenever I stop smoking my mind reverts to its original state of constant depression, suicidal ideologies, and severe social isolation. And before you start thinking it, because I know you're already heading that way, this state of mind is not caused by drugs at all, but rather is the way my mind has worked since I was a small child. I certainly was not 'hitting the bong' at the age of 4, f*ck you very much.

And with that I state: I am not addicted to/dependant on cannabis as a substance; but rather I find that its affect on me is an absolute requirement to living a life that, although not enjoyable, is at least bearable for the time being, and this CANNOT be achieved with pharmaceutical drugs. Believe me, I've tried a whole bunch of them, and they generally result in forced sleep/sedation OR insomnia, vomiting, mood swings with extreme anger/fear, overwhelming malaise, and suicidal tendencies (which is funny, because all of these were issues they were supposed to be treating).

So, kindly get the hell out of my way and stop spewing this stereotypical bullsh*t about pies, crappy 'stoner comedies' and laughing at things that spin in circles. Most cannabis users are in fact older and, perhaps surprisingly to you, more mature than the average 12 year old child.

Seriously, take that $2m you were granted and research something important like a cure for cancer -- oh wait...

Chuck G.
Chuck G.

Stoner: But officer sir, the pot is only for a research project at my college.Cop: Shut up and put your hands behind your back--and furthermore, I'm conducting a full cavity search.Stoner: But, sir, but...........I want my mommy (weeps uncontrollably).

Montemalone
Montemalone

WTF?

They don't wanna put up the stuff but they want me to tell them what it does?

I'm thinking the volunteer line ain't gonna be too long.

Lawrence Blomberg
Lawrence Blomberg

Filby is nothing but a government snitch,if she would care to do some research,she wouldn't need the $2M for her phony research.There are plenty of resources on the net that will shoot down her research,because you know in the end,the answer will be yes.This will not stand during peer review because of her bias,unless the ones doing the reviewing are government stooges just like her.

Ed Maddox
Ed Maddox

Are you kidding me? I can't even come up with enough change to buy a soda and this person is getting millions to study if someone can be addicted to CANNABIS. NO! You cannot become addicted to CANNABIS. I know because I have been addicted to other drugs and know what addiction is. I am a casual CANNABIS user today, but I used to smoke seriously. I can even not smoke if I choose. To back up this statement, I will revert to what Doctors have said for many years, "once an addict, always an addict." So if I used over an ounce a day, every day for several years, 20+ years ago and only use recreational now, did I break the code, or are people really addicted to CANNABIS? My answer to this is, PEOPLE CANNOT BE ADDICTED TO CANNABIS! Period! If you THINK you are addicted to CANNABIS then it is just in YOUR mind. I would go deeper into the "breaking the code" thing but instead I will save that for a later date when this researcher decides to do a REAL study on addiction.Herb's the word!

Steve
Steve

There is no such thing as marijuana addiction.   Psychological dependence, yes, but not addiction.

Period.

Gmpineda
Gmpineda

You can show me a photo of cheesecake and pleasure will be picked up by the imaging machine, doesn't mean I will be addicted to cheesecakes or that I am an addict... I do not know how this study is plausible because even if marijuana sparks up pleasure, a person doesn't have to be an addict or have potential to be an addict to like it. It just means that they could use some mj and of course every smoker of this study will be considered an "addict" because their mind will automatically show some sort of pleasurable response. There is just to much of a gapping hole for this study to even be accurate.

Harry Lieberwirth
Harry Lieberwirth

Unfortunately, I can testify as belonging to those 10 percent.. really a shame, I'd prefer pot over alcohol, but I guess I'll just enjoy my wine instead :)

Frank Mattioli
Frank Mattioli

I think the people conducting this research do not understand the difference between physical and psychological addiction.  For instance yes, if i didn't have weed i WOULD want it, badly. however i wil never put aside my regular life to go and get it, and i do not have any physical side effects without it i just simply return to a norml state. Weed just makes everything more awesome, who WOULDN'T want that?? but i don't think this study will achieve the proper results unless they recognize that as a factor as well

Storm_71
Storm_71

Would have been nice if the researchers used the money to study the positive effects of pot like pain management, reducing spasticity, increased appetite, helping with ADHD, and how it affects glaucoma. But hey at least we know finally we can become "addicted" to it. I know I'll sleep better tonight.

Neir
Neir

im just sipping tea and medicating / smoking Cannabis not marijuana what are you using Mexican slang from the 1930s for.. Besides, i have no hunger... thanks to cancer. I shure hope this helps me get hungry enough to be thinking about eating that to probably puke it out. 

Dylan
Dylan

Where do I sign up?!

HighOnLCD
HighOnLCD

If you actually got addicted to pot,you already have problems beyond fixing.Dont blame drugs for your flaws as a person.

Asdf
Asdf

Shaun and JB seem to be attributing blame to the researcher. You must realize it is the institutional grant giving machine, not the researchers, which should be faulted. Nowadays all you need to do is insert the word "brain scan" or "genetics" into your research proposal rather than gin up sophisticated methodologies, questions, or theories which actually help advance human kind or answer practical questions. Grant agencies are suckers for biological reductionism, which awards any topic which has been studied to death with multi-million dollar funds in order to study it again using machinery. Will it provide cool data, sure. Will it give us anything new, unlikely. Will it win money against intervention, multi-modal, or integrative grant proposals, definitely.

Finch
Finch

so yeah where do i sign up?

NB
NB

amazing article.

i am currently addicted to marijuana, but i am okay with that addiction.i was told as a child i had a very high chance of becoming an alcoholic like both of my parents were. instead, i drink on special occasions and smoke constantly. i feel this addiction to marijuana is keeping me from developing an addiction to worse things like alcohol.

id say the biggest aspect of my addiction is the fact that marijuana opened me up socially and allowed me to ignore my autistic diagnosis and not feel so anxious in social situations. without pot, i am constantly worried about how i communicate, and it has been like that ever since i was a child.

Lolotehe
Lolotehe

 It is some astonishingly bad science. I wonder if they'll be drawing blood samples to look at THC levels in the body.

Chickenpants
Chickenpants

I think you have an addiction to putting commas in a sentence!

scottindallas
scottindallas

 don't forget that pot cures male pattern baldness

Shaun McAlister
Shaun McAlister

Educated Stoner: I hereby invoke and refuse to waive all of the following rights andprivileges afforded to me by the U.S. Constitution:

•  I invoke and refuse to waive my Fifth Amendment right toremain silent.  Do not ask me any questions.

• I invoke and refuse to waive my Sixth Amendment right to anattorney of my choice.  Do not ask me any questions without myattorney present.

• I invoke and refuse to waive all privileges and rights pursuantto the case Miranda v. Arizona.  Do not ask me any questions or makeany comment to me about this decision.

• I invoke and refuse to waive my Fourth Amendment right to befree from unreasonable searches and seizures.  I do not consent toany search or seizure of myself, my home, or of any property in mypossession.  Do not ask me about my ownership interest in anyproperty.  I do not consent to this contact with you.  If I am notpresently under arrest or under investigatory detention, please allowme to leave.

• Any statement I make, or alleged consent I give, in responseto your questions is hereby made under protest and under duress andin submission to your claim of lawful authority to force me to provideyou with information.

--

Fuck with it.

David jockusch
David jockusch

 I agree. depends on how one defines addiction. If you have withdrawal symptoms when you stop, you are addicted. Psychological dependence, or just LIKING IT A LOT are not the same.

Jesus
Jesus

Grant-giving machine is the National Institute on Drug Abuse and they have been seeking proposals for at least the past five years on marijuana addiction.

Shadow37
Shadow37

I do not think that you should view it that way... I think that you are using it in a medicinal manner, where prescription drugs, that really do destroy you, would otherwise have been used... Maybe try do a bit of research on the medicinal uses for marijuana, it might shed a lot of light on a few issues!

scottindallas
scottindallas

 insincere people can't smoke, they get self-conscious, and paranoid; projecting their horrible selves on others.

Voidflakes
Voidflakes

 I think you might be right! It keeps the sentence structure nice though, which is good when I end up doing things like writing one sentence that turns into its own paragraph :-/

chasd00
chasd00

Cop: Shut up and put your hands behind your back--and furthermore, I'm conducting a full cavity search.

Dmtrousd
Dmtrousd

This has been the medical model for a long time, but the model is lacking and needs to be updated b/c by the "physiological withdrawal=addiction" model cocaine is not considered addictive. I used to think people couldn't get addicted to pot as well, until I saw acquaintances become addicted. Even so, 10% is pretty dang low (by comparison to other drugs), and should not be used as a stat to justify continued prohibition, as this far below the addiction rate of even legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol.

Fsurentals
Fsurentals

I have withdraws when I don't smoke like I'm not hungry but that's pretty much it , pot just calms me and opens me up more!

just sayin'
just sayin'

I get pretty self conscious when I am really stoned and other people in the room arent. I don't think that it has anything to do with my level of sincerity. I just can't stop thinking about how high I must sound and look to a person that is completely lucid.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 there are people who are addicted to everything where alcohol and pot are just the base on whatever else comes around.  These people shouldn't be confused with other more selective addicts I suspect.  Hell, I'm convinced the best treatment for drug abuse/addiction would be psychological/personality exploration, job counseling, and education as needed, then, for the best outcome, there would be some support.  But, that would be a hard sell in austere times.

just sayin'
just sayin'

I only get nervous around other smokers when the pizza gets down to one slice left.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 but, do you get nervous among fellow smokers?  what you describe is different

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