Tag Archives: Schizophrenia

New study: even casual use of marijuana / cannabis alters brain

Reported by the UK Telegraph.

Excerpt:

Experimenting with cannabis on a casual basis damages the brain permanently, research has found.

It is far from being a “safe” drug and no one under the age of 30 should ever use it, experts said.

People who had only used cannabis once or twice a week for a matter of months were found to have changes in the brain that govern emotion, motivation and addiction.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School in America carried out detailed 3D scans on the brains of students who used cannabis casually and were not addicted and compared them with those who had never used it.

Two major sections of the brain were found to be affected.

The scientists found that the more cannabis the 40 subjects had used, the greater the abnormalities.

Around 10 million people in Britain, almost a third of the population, have used illegal drugs, with cannabis the most popular. The research author, Dr Hans Breiter, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said: “This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences. Some people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week.

“People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case.

[…]Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “For too long cannabis has been seen as a safe drug, but as this study suggests, it can have a really serious impact on your mental health.

“Research also shows that when people smoke cannabis before the age of 15, it quadruples their chance of developing psychosis. But very few people are aware of the risks involved.”

I troubled by this study because I know people who act as if smoking marijuana were as much a right as free speech.

What I would really like to see is that people who insist on engaging in irresponsible behaviors then go on bear the consequences of that behavior. The problem is that it’s not only these people who are affected, it’s the innocent people around them. There are the innocent victims of car accidents or theft or the children who suffer because their parents want to “alter their brains”. Those are the people I am worried about.

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New study: teen pot use could hurt brain and memory

NBC News reports.

Excerpt:

Teenage pot smokers could be damaging brain structures critical to memory and reasoning, according to new research that found changes in the brains of heavy users.

Research released Monday in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin showed the brains of young heavy marijuana users were altered in so-called sub-cortical regions — primitive structures that are part of the memory and reasoning circuits. And young people with such alterations performed worse on memory tests than non-using controls, despite the fact that the heavy users had not indulged for more than two years, on average, before the testing.

“We see that adolescents are at a very vulnerable stage neurodevelopmentally,” said Matthew Smith, who led the research team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “And if you throw stuff into the brain that’s not supposed to be there, there are long-term implications for their development.”

The portion of people ages 12 to 17 who used marijuana during the past month fell to 9.5 percent last year from almost 12 percent in 2002, according to the latest figures from the government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But that still represents millions of adolescents and teenagers — and the legalization of marijuana has raised the specter that underage people will have easier access.

Adults who smoked pot regularly as teens were shown to have “neuropsychological decline” and “more cognitive problems” than non-users in a study last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). This was true even if users stopped using long before the study.

I think these papers are useful when talking to young people about drugs. You don’t want it to be a situation where you are ordering them around based on nothing more than YOUR needs and YOUR beliefs. Then it turns into a head-butting contest, and you can’t watch them all the time. A better alternative is to produce the studies that show the real effects and then ask them what they have on their side. If they are going to rebel anyway, at least you have tried to persuade them rather than control them, and that’s good parenting.

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New study finds connection between early use of marijuana and mental illness

The Wall Street Journal reports.

Excerpt:

There is a significant and consistent relationship between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia and related disorders. Schizophrenia is considered by psychiatrists to be the most devastating of mental illnesses. Patients who suffer from it often experience auditory or visual hallucinations, severe social withdrawal and cognitive impairment. Many require frequent and prolonged hospitalization in psychiatric wards.

Schizophrenia affects almost three million Americans—more than six times the number of people with multiple sclerosis, two and a half times the number of people with Parkinson’s disease, and more than twice the number of people with HIV/AIDS. Less than one-third of patients with schizophrenia can hold a steady job or live independently. A large portion (about one-third) of homeless people in the U.S. suffer from the disease.

Though they receive little attention in the legalization debate, the scientific studies showing an association between marijuana use and schizophrenia and other disorders are alarming. A 2004 article in the highly respected British Journal of Psychiatry reviewed four large studies, all of which showed a significant and consistent association between consumption of marijuana (mostly during teenage years or early 20s) and the later development of schizophrenia. The review concluded that marijuana is a “causal component,” among others, in the development of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

A 2007 study in the Lancet, a British medical journal, concludes that using marijuana increases the risk of young people developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. This risk is greatest—up to a 200% increase—among those who use marijuana heavily and who start using at a younger age.

I thought this article was useful for parents who need some ammunition when talking to their children about drugs. Children can be pretty irrational. You show them studies, and they say “that will never happen to me”. That’s just how they are. But at least when you show them the evidence, it might stick in their mind a little more. It’s all in the way you present it, I think. The idea is to be truth-focused and authentic, rather than confrontational. Maybe discuss it as a policy issue rather than a parenting issue.

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