Does Marijuana Kill Brain Cells?

Effects of Marijuana on the brain

As more and more states legalize recreational marijuana throughout the US, there has been an increase in research revolving around how marijuana can affect a person’s brain. Like most abused substances, be it alcohol or other drugs, marijuana use can cause irreversible brain damage when used for a prolonged period.

Recreational marijuana, when abused, can cause damage to brain cells and could cause recurring and concurring symptoms. More specifically, marijuana abuse can affect brain activity, particularly in its ability to interpret and convey messages.

How Exactly Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?

Like most drugs and abused substances, certain chemical compounds found in marijuana bind with specific receptors in the brain. These receptors connect to nerves that affect a person’s mood, memory, appetite, and pain tolerance among other things.

Marijuana’s primary psychoactive ingredient, Tetrahydrocannabinol (more commonly known as THC), attaches specifically to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors (officially known as cannabinoid receptor type 1 or CB1).

When smoking marijuana, the smoker may experience a general lack of focus and an inability to recall specific details. The smoker may also experience impeded motor skills, which can endanger the life of the smoker as well as those they are around. These symptoms may worsen with prolonged marijuana abuse. 

Currently, scientists are not fully aware of the long-term effects of marijuana on the consumer’s brain. However, there a correlation was found between minors who regularly use marijuana and having a lower IQ versus their non-smoking peers.

Marijuana And Its Possible Effects on Brain Development

Obviously, the number of brain cells that could be potentially damaged due to marijuana abuse is dependent on the amount of marijuana consumed. Most studies regarding the topic revolved around smokers below the age of 25. 

Early exposure to marijuana can affect a person’s cognition and memory retention late on in life. A research conducted on the effects of marijuana exposure at a young age shows alarming results, showing a loss of 6 to 8 IQ points by middle age. 

Those who smoked marijuana throughout their adolescent years, then stopped, did not regain any of the IQ points they lost. Conversely, those who began smoking marijuana in their adult years did not endure any loss in IQ points. However, there is not much research on those who started smoking marijuana past the age of 25.

Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids are modified herbal substances that produce effects similar or even more potent than marijuana. These substances are made to be similar to THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Although commonly advertised as “safe” and “legal” alternatives to marijuana in underground markets, that is definitely not the case.

These man-made hallucinogenic substances are not safe for human consumption, despite its increase in popularity among consumers. Though some variants of these chemicals are legal, more and more variants of synthetic marijuana are being banned over time due to their potency and toxicity.

Since the manufacturing of this “fake weed” does not have any regulations or standards, it’s still unknown which ones are safe, if there are any. In 2015, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) listed 15 variants of synthetic marijuana as Schedule I substances. Some drugs in the same category include crack cocaine and heroin. 

How Synthetic Marijuana Affects The Brain

Similar to natural marijuana, synthetic marijuana affects the brain by attaching to the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) found in the central and peripheral nervous systems of the body. However, synthetic marijuana binds more strongly compared to normal weed, making its effects up to 100 times more potent.

Because CB1 receptors are found spread throughout the brain, the effects it has on the consumer are far more intense and dangerous. 

Synthetic marijuana may cause severe brain damage and compromise the brain and body’s functionality. Some of these effects include:

  • Intense memory loss
  • Uncontrolled seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Heart problems
  • Respiratory problems
  • Stroke
  • Severe paranoia
  • Intense hallucinations
  • Altered perception of euphoria
  • Violent tendencies
  • Severe kidney damage
  • Severe brain damage

Aside from the above, synthetic weed can become addictive to those who take it. When the consumer is addicted to synthetic weed, these symptoms will become chronic or recurring and could thus cause rapid deterioration of the brain and the body. 

Prolonged synthetic marijuana use can cause a steep decline in brain cell activity, causing permanent and irreversible damage to the consumer.

The Short-term And Long-term Effects of Marijuana Usage on the Brain

When under the influence of marijuana, the smoker may experience several and often simultaneous short-term and long-term effects depending on their smoking frequency.

Some short-term effects of marijuana use are:

  • Impeded depth perception
  • Impeded sense of distance
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Fatigue
  • Impeded comprehension
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety

On the other hand, here are some long-term effects of marijuana:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Recurring memory loss
  • Increased THC tolerance
  • Increased drug dependence

Increased tolerance to marijuana may cause the smoker to look for more and more intense strains or variants of the drug. This could lead to more serious versions of the symptoms mentioned so far.

What Can You Do About Marijuana Dependence

Though marijuana can create a distorted sense of euphoria when consumed, this temporary state is not worth the adverse effects it entails. When abused, marijuana can become very harmful.

Stopping marijuana use may be a difficult challenge, but it is not impossible. By undergoing proper treatment and counseling, you or your loved one can live a healthier life.


Marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and their variants contain chemical compounds, THC and cannabinoids, that affect specific brain receptors. These receptors are attached to nerves that govern several body functions.

When abused, marijuana can cause negatively affect the brain, causing a lot of adverse effects in both the short-term and long-term. Constant usage of marijuana can promote both brain and body deterioration.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help. Visit Roots Through Recovery addiction treatment center in Long Beach, CA located at 3939 Atlantic Ave, Suite 102 Long Beach, CA 90807 or call (866) 766-8776.

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