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Cannabis, the mind and society: the hash realities

Nature Reviews Neuroscience volume 8, pages 885895 (2007) | Download Citation

Abstract

Cannabis has been known for at least 4,000 years to have profound effects on the mind — effects that have provoked dramatically divergent attitudes towards it. Some societies have regarded cannabis as a sacred boon for mankind that offers respite from the tribulations of everyday life, whereas others have demonized it as inevitably leading to 'reefer madness'. The debate between the protagonists and prohibitionists has recently been re-ignited, but unfortunately this debate continues mainly in ignorance of our new understanding of the effects of cannabis on the brain and of studies that have quantified the extent of the risks of long-term use.

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  1. Robin M. Murray, Paul D. Morrison and Marta Di Forti are at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychological Medicine, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8AF, UK.

    • Robin M. Murray
    • , Paul D. Morrison
    •  & Marta Di Forti
  2. Cécile Henquet is at the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.

    • Cécile Henquet

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Glossary

Component cause

A risk factor that acts with some other factor or factors to have a causal influence on the risk for a disease.

Conditioned place-aversion

The aversion to environmental stimuli that have previously been associated with a negative reward.

Conditioned place-preference

The preference for environmental stimuli that have previously been associated with a positive reward or drug effects.

Cross-tolerance

A decrease in the response to a substance as a result of continued exposure to a different substance that has a similar pharmacological action.

Dopamine sensitization

The process whereby repeated, intermittent stimulant exposure produces a permanent change in dopaminergic responses.

Long-term depression

(LTD). An enduring decrease in the strength of neurotransmission at a synapse. LTD is believed to underpin learning and memory.

Long-term potentiation

(LTP). An enduring increase in the strength of neurotransmission at a synapse. LTP is believed to underpin learning and memory.

Psychosis

A mental disturbance characterized by aberrations of perception (hallucinations) and thought (delusions) that causes a person to lose touch with external reality.

Psychosis-proneness

An increased genetic vulnerability to developing psychotic illness, as evidenced by the occurrence of subclinical psychotic experiences.

Schizophreniform psychosis

A schizophrenia-like psychosis in which the symptoms last for at least 1 month (as opposed to 6 months for a diagnosis of schizophrenia).

Sensorimotor gating

The neural filtering process that allows attention to be focused on one stimulus.

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