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Cannabis Use Not Associated With Alterations In Dopamine, Study Says

Thursday, 23 February 2012

New York, NY: The consumption of cannabis is not associated with residual alterations in the release of dopamine in chronic users, according to trial data to be published in journal Biological Psychiatry.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for reward-driven learning and behavior. Alterations in the brain's production of dopamine is associated with the habitual use of various dependence-inducing intoxicants, including alcohol, heroin, and cocaine.

Investigators at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University assessed dopamine levels in 16 recently abstinent, psychiatrically health cannabis users and 16 matched controls. Researchers found that cannabis consumers did not show any significant differences compared to controls in any of the brain regions assessed.

Authors concluded, "Unlike other addictions, cannabis dependence of mild to moderate severity is not associated with striatal DA (dopamine) alterations."

They cautioned, however, that early onset use of cannabis or long-term use of the plant may be associated with a decrease in the release of dopamine in the striatum.

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, Dopamine Release in Chronic Cannabis Users: A [(11)C]Raclopride Positron Emission Tomography Study," will appear in Biological Psychiatry.