Marijuana smokers might be training their brains to prefer cannabis to other healthy rewards, like their favorite fruit, according to a recent study conducted at the University of Texas,
Researchers first asked 53 daily cannabis users to a) abstain from smoking for three days before the experience, and b) let researchers know both their favorite fruit, and their favorite way of getting high, whether in the form of a blunt, pipe, or bong.
The 53 cannabis consumers, and 68 non-cannabis-using control subjects, were then hooked up to an fMRI machine to measure brain activity. Researchers presented the subjects with a series of objects: either a non-cannabis reward, like their favorite fruit, a neutral control object, like a pencil, or their fave consumption method: a pipe, bong, or blunt. They were then asked a series of questions to identify how they felt, including their urge, or lack of an urge, to use marijuana.
According to the study authors, "cannabis users had greater subjective craving for cannabis when exposed to all types of cues (cannabis, natural reward, and, neutral) relative to non-users."
More brain activity was also registered in the cannabis users when presented with cannabis-related cues than any other object: researchers say this means chronic use could develop a "hyper-responsivity" to the drug. The amount of cannabis consumed daily didn't seem to have an effect on the user's preference.
Simply put, this study shows that consistently stimulating the reward systems of the brain with bliss-induced cannabis trains your brain to get less jazzed about other, also pleasurable activities - meaning cultivating a bit of balance in the ways you unwind, and the occasional tolerance break, are a good plan if you want to keep doing all the things you enjoy in life.