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Paranoid or Placid? Scans Show Pot's Effect on Brain
Date:1/6/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking marijuana can mean different things to different people -- for some, anxiety and paranoia can set in, while others mellow out.

Now, a unique brain scan study suggests two ingredients in pot may work independently to achieve these effects.

British scientists who watched the effects of the two marijuana ingredients -- Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) -- on the brains of 15 young men say the research shows how the drug can either ease or agitate the mind.

"People have polarized views about marijuana," said study lead author Dr. Sagnik Bhattacharyya, a researcher in the department of psychosis studies at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. "Some consider it to be essentially harmless but potentially useful as a treatment in a number of medical conditions, and others link it to potentially severe public health consequences in terms of mental health. This study explains why the truth is somewhere in between."

The findings were published in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

According to Bhattacharyya's team, it's long been noted that cannabis can prompt the onset of psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia and/or delusional thinking, among otherwise healthy people.

"A number of studies have (also) clearly shown that regular marijuana or cannabis use in vulnerable individuals is associated with increased risk of developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, where one loses contact with reality," Bhattacharyya said.

Just how this occurs in the brain wasn't understood.

In the new study, the researchers used functional MRI brain imaging on 15 healthy men, roughly 27 years old on average and described as "occasional cannabis users."

On three occasions under fMRI monitoring, the men received one of three identical-looking gelatin capsules: one
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