New Study Reveals Marijuana Use Linked to Schizophrenic-Like Brain Changes

Healthcare Training Resource
December 18, 2013 — 820 views  
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Marijuana has always been a controversial drug. However, recent research gives legislators another reason to keep the substance from being legalized in most parts of the country. The THC deposits that the drug leaves in the body may harm users in many ways.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Feinburg School of Medicine (Northwestern University, Illinois) now shows that marijuana abuse at a young age may cause brain degeneration in a way that resembles the brain structures of schizophrenic patients.

Schizophrenia is a condition in psychopathology where patients suffer from unstructured thought patterns and hindered emotional responses. Delusions, hallucinations and negative affect are characteristic of the disorder. The study linking marijuana and schizophrenic responses consisted of about 100 adolescents from 16 to 17 years of age. Of this sample group, there were categories of teenagers who had used the drug, who had not used marijuana in the past, schizophrenics who had used the drug, and those suffering from the disorder who had never taken cannabis.

The Parts of the Brain that the Drug Affects

Marijuana is most popular among young adults. The substance creates THC deposits in the body, which start depleting over time when you stop taking the drug. This depletion causes the body to react which urges users to replenish the supply. This causes a dependency syndrome, and increases the number of long-term users.

Using cannabis for a long time, however, creates difficulties in performing tasks related to memory. The brain degeneration that takes place changes the structure to become similar to that of people suffering from schizophrenia. The cerebral cortex, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus are all responsible for performing different functions relating to memory. Each of these parts is found to be affected in the brains of early marijuana users even long after the drug is stopped.

Marijuana Could Lead to the Development of Schizophrenia

With the ground-breaking study, it is now proven that excessive use of the drug among adolescents can increase the chances of developing a psychological condition. If there is a family history of the disorder, marijuana users are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

The study checked only the effects of marijuana. However, since it is among the first tests that have been made in the area, it is likely that other common street drugs have similar implications on young, frequent users.

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