Science & tech

Leafly Medical Studies Roundup: Is Cannabis Addictive Because We ‘Prefer It Over Fruit’?

Published on June 8, 2016 · Last updated September 1, 2022

Exciting new developments in cannabis science are happening. For those who say, “We need more research on cannabis before rescheduling or legalizing,” take a look around you. There are more studies on cannabis than most FDA-approved pharmaceuticals, and the body of pre-clinical and clinical studies is constantly growing. Here are some of the more recent studies published adding to that ever-growing database of knowledge.

Long-term cannabis use is associated with altered activity in the brain’s reward processing pathways, says the abuse-focused government research agency NIDA. This study of 129 participants used magnetic resonance imaging and found that cannabis consumers exhibited higher levels of mesocoricolimbic-reward activity when exposed to cannabis cues than when shown natural reward cues. The natural reward cue used was the subject’s “preferred fruit.” Researchers go on to draw some harsh conclusions about cannabis addiction and its connection to family issues and personal life problems, but again, the “natural reward cue” was fruit. Avocados may be my favorite food, but when given the choice between that and cannabis – the plant that provides me stress relief, mood enhancement, nausea relief, creativity, a newfound appetite, and so much more – you can bet your bottom my brain is going to be more excited about that.

Alcoholism and PTSD are associated with fewer CB1 receptors in one area of the brain. That’s what researchers at the VA Medical Center in Detroit uncovered in a study published last month. These are the receptors that THC bind to, and these structural changes in the brain’s striatum could be why cannabis appears to have a therapeutic effect on PTSD and alcoholism sufferers. It’s important to note that this study was conducted on mice, so further research is needed to confirm that this effect takes place in human brains as well.

Cannabinoids may have paradoxical effects on liver cancer.Researchers at Columbia University in New York found that activation of CB1 receptors could increase cancer development whereas CB2 receptors could decrease it. Different cannabinoids have different affinities to these receptors, so hopefully future research will reveal how specific cannabis compounds would treat liver cancer while avoiding those that hinder. Again, this study was performed on mice, so much work is still to be done before any definitive conclusions are drawn.

Cannabis Shows Promise in Yet Another Type of Cancer: HCC Liver Tumors

The report on cannabis-induced DNA changes is called into question by leading cannabis researcher Ethan Russo. Scientists from the University of Western Australia claimed in a press release that cannabis could “alter a person’s DNA structure, causing mutations which can expose them to serious illnesses, and be passed on to their children and several future generations.” When asked about the study, Dr. Russo argued that points out that the study did no actual clinical testing – it was a review of studies supporting their logic – and furthermore, gave no detail on important factors such as dosing and length of use.

A study found that cannabis did not cause midlife health problems except slightly higher rates of gum disease. You may have caught our coverage of this study last week. Some sensationalistic media headlines focused on or exaggerated the dental damage aspects of it, but what’s important to note is that cannabis consumers actually exhibited better health overall.

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Bailey Rahn
Bailey Rahn
Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.
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