"Dependent users had greater activations in the amygdala and anterior cingulate gyrus, suggesting a more emotional connection."
New York, July 16 - The drug paraphernalia triggers the reward areas of the brain differently in dependent and non-dependent marijuana users, research shows.
The study has shown that different areas of the brain were activated when dependent and non-dependent users were exposed to drug-related cues.
We know that people have a hard time staying abstinent because seeing cues for the drug use triggers this intense desire to seek out the drugs, said Francesca Filbey, a professor at University of Texas at Dallas' school of behavioural and brain sciences.
To find this effect, Filbey and colleagues conducted brain-imaging scans on 71 participants who regularly used marijuana.
While being scanned, the participants were given either a used marijuana pipe or a pencil of approximately the same size that they could see and feel.
A comparison of the images revealed that the nucleus accumbens, the reward region in the brain, was activated in all users in response to the pipe.
We found that the reward network is actually being driven by other areas unrelated to reward, like the areas in memory and attention or emotion, Filbey said.
Dependent users had greater activations in the amygdala and anterior cingulate gyrus, suggesting a more emotional connection.
The findings, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggest that marijuana abuse intervention needs to cater more specifically to a user's level of addiction.