A new study may have uncovered the mystery of why some people get more addicted to cannabis than others. Researcher say users get addicted to cannabis when there is a shift from reward-driven use to habit-driven use.
For the study, the team used brain imaging to monitor neural activity when participants who use cannabis looked at images linked with cannabis use. This is also known as drug cues.
Even though most of the participants reported they were heavy cannabis users, no all of them were dependent on the popular drug. Researchers found both dependent and non-dependent cannabis users were found to have exaggerated responses in the ventral striatuma, which is the area of the brain that processes reward. However, the team also found that dependent users had a bigger response in the dorsal striatum, which is the part of the brain that forms habits.
"The present findings reflect that heavy cannabis use is promoted by changes in the brain's reward system--however, these changes alone may not fully explain addictive use. Addictive use may rather be driven by changes in brain systems that promote habitual--automatic--use, which may also explain the fact that addicts continue to use despite a lack of experiencing rewarding effects of the drug. As such, their behaviour has become under the control of the drug cues, rather than the actual reward expectation," study author Benjamin Becker, told a news portal.
Dependent users had increased responses in other areas of the brain as well. These regions included the areas that attribute importance to things. The study's findings suggest that developing cannabis addiction is associated with brain regions that cause a person to want the drug even more.
"These findings are important insights that can help us better understand why some individuals might be more likely to become addicted to cannabis," Cameron Carter, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, told a news portal
Identifying brain circuits that cause this kind of drug dependence can help researchers develop better treatment options to tackle cannabis addiction.
"The identification of the dorsal striatum and habitual behaviour as a driver of addiction may allow the development of more specific treatment approaches to increase treatment success," c0-author of the study Xinqi Zhou, told a news portal.
The study's findings were originally published in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.