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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

'Moderate' Pot Use and the Brain

We have all heard how marijuana is 'harmless.'  It is 'so much healthier' than alcohol.  Yeah, those canards have been repeated so often, despite the awful evidence to the contrary that surrounds us.
Now, this:
The name of the game is 'neuroplasticity.'  What is that you ask?  The Wikipedia definition is rather clear:
Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity—it refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.  Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how - and in which ways - the brain changes throughout life.
Neuroplasticity occurs on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes due to learning, to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to injury. The role of neuroplasticity is widely recognized in healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage. During most of the 20th century, the consensus among neuroscientists was that brain structure is relatively immutable after a critical period during early childhood. This belief has been challenged by findings revealing that many aspects of the brain remain plastic even into adulthood.
What this means is that what we do, quite literally, changes our brains.  When we learn a new skill, the brain will change and adapt to it.  It will also re-task areas that are less used.
If you take up 'recreational' tennis, your brain will change and devote more area to coordination and physical activity.  If you take up 'recreational' gaming, your brain will also change and devote more area to reflexes and visual processing.
If you take up 'recreational' marijuana usage, you ought to consider how this is changing you.  There is a follow-up question which I have asked before: what about your life is so bad that getting stoned becomes so necessary?
There is an overall social shift in attitudes towards life.  Employers are noticing that it is harder and harder to find employees who will show up to work on time.  Our schools have preached the message of self-fulfillment, but really failed at communicated the basics of a civilized society.  Part of that is how to hold a job.
There's a lot of talk about raising the minimum wage, but not so much talk about improving the employability of citizens or examining why so many people want to stay in minimum wage jobs to begin with.  There are plenty of people who seem to want to remain in circumstances that make them unhappy, and they look for coping mechanists rather than change.
That's where marijuana comes in.  It is a coping mechanism for a meaningless, dead-end life.  It is a way to get endorphins, the reward chemical associated with satisfaction and completion, without achieving anything.  It makes living a tedious, monotonous existence somehow more bearable.  No incentive necessary... you don't need to try harder to get the same sense of satisfaction a joint can give you.
The problem is that this joint is altering your brain.  It is making you into its image rather than making you more of who you are supposed to be.  You are becoming a 'pot-head' as you light up, and you are retraining your brain to stay in that state.
Tonight, Orthodox parishes across the world are offering the service of Holy Unction.  As we receive anointing, we ought to consider asking God to heal our brains from the bad training we have given them.

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