DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Is marijuana addictive? A University of Texas at Dallas professor is preparing to launch a $2 million grant-funded study to get a more conclusive answer to that question.
Dr. Francesca Filbey already has a history of studying addiction. In an informative Q&A on UTD's Center for Brain Health website, Filbey says her passion is studying brain changes that often lead to addictive behavior.
In past studies, mostly at her former post at the University of New Mexico, Filbey says she's found proof some pot users are dependent upon the drug and wants to further study its effects upon the brain.
"It isn't as addictive as alcohol, for instance, but 10 percent of the population –– or, of people who use marijuana –– actually do end up becoming addicted and carrying the diagnosis of dependence," she said.
Her past studies showed proof that some individuals had a genetic predisposition to marijuana addiction, Filbey said.
A variance in a gene that affects the development of the portion of the brain that THC, the active chemical in marijuana, latches onto is different in some users, the professor said.
Her past studies have found that some people are simply more susceptible to the rewarding effects of marijuana than others. This study, she says, will hope to further research why that is and what factors determine it.
"Initiation is usually in adolescence when the brain is developing rapidly," Filbey said. "And when changes occur to the brain they could be long-lasting."
The study needs 100 "chronic, heavy" marijuana users and another 100 nonusers. Filbey said the marijuana users are anonymous and will not be charged with a crime.
"We've also received a certificate of confidentiality from the National Institute of Health, which protects each individual from any legal consequences," Filbey said.
Participants will undergo brain imaging while researchers show them marijuana triggers, such as paraphernalia like pipes. From here, researchers will "examine the neural mechanisms of craving."
Funding for the research came from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which offers grants for professors wishing to study how drugs affect the brain.
Filbey said anyone wishing to participate in the study should contact the university's Center for Brain Health at 214.905.3007.