This is perhaps no more obvious, at least in the recreational field than a persistent and unanswered question: why does cannabis make one person feel good and another feel paralyzing paranoia?
Thanks to a study conducted on July 5 by the University of Western in Ontario, Canada, we can get closer to the solution. Published in Scientific Reports, the study is one of the few to explore the “divergent psychological effects” produced by the psychoactive ingredient THC and explain why this happens.
Using rats, the study showed that psychological reactions to cannabis depend on which part of an individual’s brain is most sensitive to THC. If it is the front part of the brain, cannabis use will produce rewarding effects (e.g., feelings of ease, decreased anxiety and joy). If it is the posterior (back) region that happens to be the most sensitive to THC, it will produce negative reactions (paranoia and fear).
It’s not clear why there are such differences in response to THC,” Laviolette said. “We know a lot about the short- and long-term effects. But we know very little about the specific areas of the brain responsible for the independent control of these effects.
So, this study is a breakthrough. “This is a complete discovery,” said Laviolette. The multi-year project, led by Christopher Norris, validates many people who have reported experiencing very negative effects of marijuana. Beyond the negative feelings alone, the authors found that in severe cases, individuals may exhibit symptoms of “schizophrenia” type.
This work stands in contrast to previous attempts to explain different psychological reactions, including a 2014 study by Oxford, which suggests that traits such as low self-esteem play a role.
Norris and Laviolette’s study rather suggests that the reaction is beyond the control of the individual and maybe more genetically based. For those who have a bad reaction, this may be good news.
“Once we determine which molecular pathways are causing these effects in different areas, we can work in the long term on modulating THC formulations so that they don’t trigger those specific pathways,” says Laviolette. “That’s the long-term goal of what we’re trying to do here.
The next step for Laviolette and her colleagues is to try to replicate the results on the human brain, which will not be an easy task. But for now, he hopes the new research will educate users and help them make informed decisions. “You should know that we are beginning to solve some of the more complex details of how cannabis affects the brain,” he said. “Monitor your use and if you experience any negative side effects, talk to your doctor.