120 - T#Michigan Daily - Week^ , etc. Magazine - Thursda#September 30, 1999 f
The Michigan Daily - #ekend, etc. J
Marijuana isn't always a hit with users' brains, personalities
By Mo Kennedy
As the ganja gods Cypress Hill so elo-
quently once put it, "Roll it up, light it
up, smoke it up. I wanna stimulate my
mind so I toke it up." Is this a reason for
the attraction of smoking marijuana -
the wish to stimulate one's mind?
According to Rod*, an LSA senior, it is.
"I can think in ways when I'm stoned
that I can't when I'm sober. I analyze
things more, feel more creative, make
logical leaps that I otherwise wouldn't
see if I wasn't in that frame of mind"
This opinion seems to be held by sev-
eral pot-smoking students at the
University, and to a limited extent, itsis
true. When a student smokes a joint,
his/her brain works in ways that the aver-
age pot-smoker doesn't take time to con-
template. According to research by the
National Institue for Drug Abuse
(NIDA), it is possible for some results to
be positive - heightened intuitiveness,
creativity and analysis, to name a few.
The pendulum swings both ways and
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Compared to every other drug on the
market, researchers know the least about
THC (the active ingredient in marijua-
na). Whatthey have found won't surprise
the regular user who has experienced the
side effects of "Mary Jane" before. The
NIDA explains it like so: When a person
smokes marijuana, the THC quickly
travels to the brain. It concentrates in the
accumbens and caudate nuclei, hip-
pocampus and cerebellum. The THC
binds to its receptors on the neighboring
terminal, sending a signal to the
dopamine terminal to release more
In layman's terms: The hippocampus
is where all of the brain's short-term
memory originates. This explains the
avid pot-smoker's inability to recall what
he/she was talking about five minutes
ago, or where they put their keys when
they walked in the door. This also makes
it hard to learn while high, because a
working short-term memory is required
for learning and performing tasks that
call for more than one or two steps.
The cerebellum is the part of the brain
that controls the body's sensory-motor
activities. Ever wonder why a pot-smok-
er just can't seem to make it off that
comfy couch when stoned? It is a result
of all the THC in the cerebellum. This is
also why loss of balance and coordina-
tion are characteristic of the marijuana
"high,' along with altered perception of
time and space and reduced ability to
make quick decisions.
"Where are we gonna go?"
"I dunno, where do you wanna go?"
And finally, the aforementioned
release of dopamine into a person's sys-
tem results in a sudden sleepy feeling
and mood changes. It also affects the
brain's attention span and learning
But marijuana doesn't just effect the
physicality of the brain. Psychologically,,
each user reacts to marijuana differently
and the high can vary each time.
"It makes me feel like my head is
going to float off of my body and my feet
are nailed to the ground. (It's) my tem-
porary escape from reality," said Jeanie,
an LSA junior. Feelings of euphoria,
relaxation and hilarity are a common
result ofmarijuana use, but positive reac-
tions are not always the case.
"My heart races, my mind becomes
cloudy and I lose control of my thoughts.
I get dizzy and paranoid and can't relate
on the same level to the people around
me," said LSA junior Samantha of her
negative experiences with marijuana. In
many cases, fits of paranoia, panic
attacks, high anxiety and even hallucina-
tions are common among pot smokers.
One of the most problematic and
potentially hazardous side-effects of
marijuana use is the psychological dis-
ease called "amotivational syndrome." It
is categorized, according to the Indiana
Prevention Resource Center, as a "mas-
sive and persistent loss of ambition that
is replaced by chronic apathy and passiv-
ity towards goals of the future." It has
been found that an unusually high per-
centage of people who suffer from this
syndrome have been long-term marijua-
When used recreationally, pot might
be an escape where one can feel
absolutely content sitting on the couch
watching "Cops" and eating Doritos. But
chronic long-term use of marijuana, for
some people, strips away the desire to do
anything at all. This can leave the user
feeling depressed and frustrated.
The long-term effects of marijuana on
the brain have yet to be understood by
scientists. But University students don't
seem to be holding their breath waiting
for more data. Not if they're holding
their breath for some other reason.
*Names of students have been
Continued from Page 3B
with the lowest grades were four times
more likely to be marijuana smokers
than non-smokers. There was no cor-
relation between drinking alcohol
and poor grades.
Brad can attest to feeling less
intelligent after getting high on mar-
ijuana. He said, "If I smoke too
much, I can feel myself getting
His friend, LSA senior Will*,
added that he also sometimes "felt
his brain turning to mush" as a result
of his heavy marijuana use.
Nevertheless, there are exceptions
to the rule.
George proudly boasted, "I smoke
five times a week and I get damn
good grades. And if I weren't (get-
ting good grades) I would stop
But student tokers, even if they are
not threatened by the chance of
dulling their intellectual and acade-
mic abilities, had best beware the
legal consequences of getting caught
For instance, a former Virginia
Tech art student and alleged major
drug dealer on campus, was recently
arrested and convicted of felonies.
He will spend almost as much time
in prison as he would have in col-
lege. Moreover, he is now required to
donate to charity the money he made
from selling marijuana.
University students are not
immune from the long arm of the
law, despite liberal practices such as
Ann Arbor's annual "Hash Bash."
Students do get cited and arrested for
possession of marijuana even though
the University lacks an official poli-
cy on the matter.
For example, Kenny and a couple
of his friends were caught getting
high in the dorms his freshman year.
The students were sentenced to six
months probation, during which they
had to complete 72 hours of commu-
nity service in exchange for having
the offense wiped off their perma-
At press time no precise statistics
were available regarding the number
of marijuana-related arrests in Ann
If, however, the current climate in
Ann Arbor is any indication, one
thing is clear: The widespread use of
marijuana on college campuses is
alive and well in spite of its unpleas-
ant side effects and health risks, not
to mention the legal ramifications
that accompany getting busted with a
little herbal refreshment.
*Names of students have been
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