Smoking marijuana may put some teenagers at increased risk of developing schizophrenia, according to a new study published in Human Molecular Genetics. Significantly, the 2016 Monitoring the Future Study reported that nearly half of American 12th-graders have tried the drug at least once.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University conducted experiments on four separate groups of mice. Those mice who were genetically-susceptible to schizophrenia showed symptoms after being exposed to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
Findings Confirm Earlier Conclusions
The idea that cannabis use can be tied to long-term psychiatric disorders is not a new one. Tellingly, much of past research highlights the dangers of marijuana use during the teenage years, while the brain is still developing.
- New Zealand researchers found individuals who use marijuana at age 15 or younger were over 300% more likely to develop schizophrenia.
- The risk grows proportionately to the amount of marijuana consumed. Heavy usage increases the risk by up to 700%.
- Teenagers who smoke marijuana at age 15 are 5 times more likely to have schizophrenia by the time they reach age 26.
- Those individuals who do not initiate use until age 18 only have a 65 times greater risk.
- Individuals who are genetically vulnerable face a risk of schizophrenia that is increased by 1000% if they use marijuana.
“…young people with a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia – those who have psychiatric disorders in their families – should bear in mind that they’re playing with fire if they smoke pot during adolescence.”
~Dr. Ran Barzilay, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine
Alarmingly, a Dutch study concluded that teenagers who use marijuana as little as 5 times in their life significantly increase the chances of developing schizophrenia in the future. Right now, 6% of American teenagers self-report that they use marijuana daily.
It is estimated that 1 out of 7 people who have schizophrenia would never have developed the condition if they had never used marijuana. Up to 90% of schizophrenics were heavy marijuana users or they developed their illness.
How Marijuana Affects Teenagers’ Brains
In teens, marijuana causes changes to the areas of the brain that process information and transfer it to long-term memory. In 2013, researchers from Northwestern University found that consuming marijuana during adolescence shrinks the areas of the brain associated with memory.
Worse, the younger a person is when they first start using marijuana heavily, the more abnormally-shaped these brain regions become.
These kind of brain changes are strikingly similar to those caused by schizophrenia. Researchers commented that their discoveries were “among the first to reveal that the use of marijuana may contribute to the changes in brain structure that have been associated with having schizophrenia.”
If your teenager is using marijuana, the best thing that you can do for their present and future health is get them professional addiction treatment. For more than 35 years, Teensavers Treatment Centers has helped teens and families affected by substance abuse and/or mental disorders.
Using a unique approach that addresses your child’s needs as an individual, Teensavers can help you restore sanity, sanity, and serenity to your lives.
By Albert Fontenot