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HHS HealthBeat (July 30, 2014)

In the pipe

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

For a marijuana user, the urge to smoke might lie deeper in the brain than the user realizes. At the University of Texas at Dallas, researchers measured brain activity while users handled a marijuana pipe or a pencil of the same size.

Researcher Francesca Filbey says handling the pipe triggered things in the brain – for non-dependent users, the regions associated with attention and decision-making, but for dependent users also regions associated with memory and emotion. She says the pipe amounted to a cue to smoke.

“This suggests that the cues are extremely powerful because the effects occur without the participants’ knowledge or even their awareness.”

The study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Learn more at healthfinder.gov.

HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: July 30, 2014