The levels of dopamine are found to be lower in people who use cannabis long-term including those who began at an early age. Lower dopamine in the brain’s striatum is linked to lowered ambition and motivation. Learning how long-term cannabis use impacts the brain can provide a deeper understanding of the risks associated with cannabis use.
Researchers found long-term cannabis use tends to produce less dopamine, which is a neurochemical directly linked to motivation and reward. PET brain imaging suggests that dopamine levels in the part of the brain called the striatum were lower for some people than others. This lends itself to understanding why some people view cannabis users as ‘lazy,’ or ‘unmotivated.’ Dopamine has long been linked to reward driven behavior like achievement of life goals. Setting and achieving goals keeps dopamine on the rise which exercise being one of the best ways to get (and stay) motivated.
Scientists who have worked on motivation and cannabis used discovered the younger a person is when cannabis use starts, current levels of dopamine follow close behind. Cannabis addiction is defined by the lower dopamine levels seen in people who meet diagnostic criteria and have used cannabis for a long time. The link to lower dopamine can be used as a measure and marker for what degree a person is addicted to (or abusing) cannabis. Amotivational syndrome is another name for the lower dopamine levels that are seen in people who use cannabis long term and explains how they lack motivation to achieve various life pursuits.
The Good News
The good news about scientific findings around dopamine levels in long term cannabis users is that there is help, and hope, for those impacted. Amotivational syndrome is still a somewhat controversial description of people with lowered dopamine levels because not everyone who smokes pot long term will lack motivation and will to get things done. The power of the brain to change itself over time is one of the great mysteries of the universe, but offers hope for being able to cope with both the impact of long-term cannabis use and shifting motivation to the person rather than from within the brain. Motivational enhancement theory, for example, can produce rapid, internally motivated change by helping the person mobilize his or her own internal resources for change rather than treat the person (per se) which can have positive effects on motivation to achieve life goals. Therapeutic goals can be tailored to an individual’s needs depending on the situation, experiences, and plan worked up with a team of professionals who can support an individual’s recovery.
Cypress Lakes offers a place to explore the possibilities of what it means to be healthy and whole in spite of addiction. Our holistic approach means we combine therapeutic modalities with alternative models of healing to help you recover. Call us to find out how we can help you get started on the journey. 877-938-1577