Young Marijuana Users React Differently to Social Exclusion

It is a known fact that peer pressure and interaction play a major role in young people taking to marijuana and other drugs. But once they start abusing the drug, some drastic alteration takes place in their brains. According to a new study published in the latest issue of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, young individuals who regularly use marijuana display altered brain activation patterns during social exclusion.

Such people tend to behave differently to rejection among peer groups than others who do not abuse marijuana. The investigators came to this conclusion on the basis of a neuroimaging study on 42 young adults. Dr. Jodi Gilman, first author of the study and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said, “Peer groups are one of the most important predictors of young adult marijuana use, and yet we know very little about the neural correlates of social rejection in those who use marijuana.”

The participants who belonged to the age group of 18 to 25 years were made to play a computerized game of catch while undergoing a non-invasive brain scan. Half of them were marijuana users. It was not revealed to the participants that the other players in the game were actually the computers and were programmed to exclude them for a portion of the game.

When the youngsters who were not marijuana users were being excluded from the game, they demonstrated activation in the right anterior insula, a region of the brain associated with negative emotion and social rejection. In contrast, the marijuana using youngsters did not demonstrate activation in the right anterior insula. All the participants in the study showed activation of the ventral anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain associated with emotional monitoring, during peer exclusion, which also correlate with measures of peer conformity and suggestibility.

“In this study, during peer rejection, young adult marijuana users had reduced activation in the insula, a brain region usually active during social rejection,” said Gillman. “This may reflect impaired processing of social information in marijuana users. Reduced activity in the insula to peer rejection could indicate that marijuana users are less conscious of social norms, or have reduced capacity to reflect on or react to negative social situations,” she added.

According to Dr. Cameron Carter, editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, these findings reveal that people who abuse cannabis appear to be less sensitive to social exclusion than their non-cannabis user counterparts. However, he said “the study does not address whether this impaired processing is a core trait of cannabis users or a byproduct of the drug use itself.”

Such studies can be of great help in drug addiction treatment in the behavioral therapy interventions. A drug addiction treatment clinic in Colorado can surely utilize such knowledge and get a better perspective while treating patients.

However, this study alone would not suffice and more research is required to understand other aspects of the said behavior. The researchers suggest that more studies, including longitudinal designs, are required to assess the developmental trajectory of this altered social processing. Further studies would help in determining whether impaired processing of social exclusion is caused by, is a result of, or develops along with marijuana use.

Marijuana abuse can impact a person in more ways than what is usually perceived. It can change the social standing of a person and affect his equation with others in the society. He will tend to become more isolated and with further abuse of marijuana his reaction to normal social changes would be different from others.

If a loved one is abusing any substance and you are looking for the best treatment options in your area, the Colorado Drug Addiction Help can guide you. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866–218–7546 for immediate assistance. Our experts have the best piece of advice for those looking for drug addiction treatment clinic, Colorado.

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