Researchers study effects of marijuana

New long-term studies tackle the neurological, socio-economic impact

UTD professors are making new discoveries on the scientific and socio-economic effects of marijuana.

Francesca Filbey, associate professor in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, is taking part in a federally funded consortium studying the effects of marijuana on the brain.

The consortium is a collaboration between the National Institute on Drug Abuse and four other universities including Harvard and the University of California, San Diego.

“There is a growing change in our attitudes towards marijuana and I think before we can make real decisions about marijuana’s impact to society, we really need to see what their real effects are,” Filbey said.

Filbey focuses her studies on the marijuana use and addiction. She said previous research  has shown that the substance triggers a heightened response in the part of the brain that responds to natural rewards such as food and water. 

“We’ve also found a number of genes that put some individuals at heightened risk for this response,” she said.

For the current study, Filbey is trying to answer the question of what the psychological effects are on people who smoke and people who don’t as well as those same effects on those with addictive personalities.

“Paradoxically, marijuana has been around for a long time and it has been used for a variety of purposes, we actually know very little about the long term effects,” said Filbey.

On the socio-economic level, criminology professor Robert Morris, recently completed a study on marijuana legalization and its effect on violent crime rates.

He said that after hearing many argue against the legalization of marijuana because of its potential effect on the increase of crime, his study showed the opposite.

Morris said that in parts of the country where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes, certain types of crime have been unaffected.

Ph.D. student Michael TenEyck, assistant professor J.C. Barnes and Tomislav V. Kovandzic also participated in the study.

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