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Marijuana Craving in the Brain

A close-up view of the leaves of a cannabis plant.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Francesca M. Filbey, Joseph P. Schacht, Ursula S. Myers, Robert S. Chavez and Kent E. Hutchison

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The results demonstrated that like other drugs of abuse, the tactile presentation of marijuana paraphernalia leads to greater activation of the reward and motivated behavior regions of the brains of marijuana users, but not the brains of nonusers. Additionally, the magnitude of activation of these regions was associated with the severity of the individual’s marijuana use problems – which reveals important implications for the treatment of cannabis dependence. This was the first study to show that people crave marijuana as reflected by neurobiological mechanisms.

Figure 3 displays the experimental protocol used in this study. Participants were given random sequences of marijuana paraphernalia and neutral stimuli, then they rated their urge to use marijuana while inside an fMRI.

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Francesca Filbey, PhD

Bert Moore Endowed Chair and Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Director, Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory of Addictive Disorders

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