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Dependence Alters the Brain's Response to Pot Paraphernalia, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 16, 2014 09:49 AM EDT

Drug paraphernalia triggers the reward areas of the brain differently in dependent and non-dependent marijuana users, a new research has demonstrated. 

According to the research, different areas of the brain activated when dependent and non-independent users were exposed to drug-related cues. 

"We know that people have a hard time staying abstinent because seeing cues for the drug use triggers this intense desire to seek out the drugs," said Dr. Francesca Filbey, lead author of the study and professor at the Center for BrainHealth in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, in the press release. "That's a clinically validated phenomenon and behavioral studies have also shown this to be the case. What we didn't know was what was driving those effects in the brain."

According to statistics provided by 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Another survey in 2013 performed by Pew Research Center concluded that 48 percent of Americans ages 18 and older have tried marijuana. 

"We found that the reward network is actually being driven by other areas unrelated to reward, like the areas in memory and attention or emotion," Filbey added.

Findings of the study suggest that marijuana abuse intervention needs to cater more specifically to a user's level of addiction. 

"Clinicians treating people with problems with marijuana dependence should consider the different processes that trigger the reward response when determining possible pharmacological or behavioral interventions," Filbey said in the press release.

The study is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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