Cannabis & Cocaine Use Reduces Impulse Control

by baladmin | November 17, 2013

When you are faced with a choice, a process begins inside your brain.

If your options are Choice A and Choice B, how do you go about deciding? What criteria goes into your decision-making process? How do you approach determining which option to choose?

When your ability to make a rational, thought-out decision is impaired, you do not know what to do. For some people, this leads in a quick, impulsive decision that did not include weighing out pros and cons, or thinking through the consequences of both sides. A selection is made, and a behavior is engaged in, no matter what is about to come as a result.


A New Research Study
The British Journal of Pharmacology recently published a study that investigated the connection between drug use and impulsivity. PhD. candidate in the Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, Janelle van Wel lead the research.

61 people, who answered questions indicating regular marijuana and cocaine use, were recruited to participate in the study. Individuals were asked to use either marijuana, cocaine, or a placebo at various times, and were then given a series of tests aimed at assessing critical thinking, division of attention, executive functioning, and planning. Janelle van Wel and her team requested that participants think through the choices they were about to make before answers were given.

Study Results
Ms. Van Wel and her research colleagues report that marijuana, or cannabis, use majorly slowed down participants’ ability to make a decision. Also, while under the influence of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, individuals made more mistakes than when given the placebo.

Those under the influence of cocaine were not slowed down in the decision-making process, but still tended to make more mistakes than when taking the placebo. The research team found that the impulsive nature of someone high on cocaine leads to the mistake-making, and to what van Wel feels translates to an inability to stop using cocaine.

Janelle van Wel wrote in the published results, entitled Single Doses of THC and cocaine decrease proficiency of impulse control in heavy cannabis users that, “This increased impulsivity after drug use could increase the likelihood of developing addiction. These findings contrast with previous reports that had claimed that these effects after cannabis administration only occurred in occasional users and not in heavy users.”

The understood criteria for addiction in the world of substance abuse diagnosis and treatment are:

  • Loss of control over use of a substance
  • Obsession with use of a substance
  • Continued use of a substance despite negative life consequences, occurring directly from substance use
  • Denial that there is a problem with the substance being used
  • A powerful tendency to relapse, meaning to go back to substance use, even after times of trying to quit.

These criteria can also apply to someone who is addicted to a behavior, like gambling, shopping, engaging in certain activities online, video games, sex, and love.

Marijuana Addiction
While people argue that cannabis does not create the same physical dependence as other substances, there is definitely a psychological component to marijuana use that can be argued as dependence and addiction. When used cannabis consistently, impulse control and decision-making are impaired.

Cocaine Addiction
This drug is much more damaging than marijuana. Not only are impulse control and decision-making abilities interrupted, overdose, heart problems, and death are all likely when cocaine is used regularly.

This study shows us yet another way drugs interfere with the human brain, and our overall ability to function in a healthy manner.

For more information on how to help someone who is abusing marijuana, cocaine, or any other substance, contact Balboa Horizons today. 877.309.4593