Marijuana use linked to brain changes
Heavy use of marijuana may be linked to poor memory and abnormal changes in brain function that are similar to changes found in schizophrenic people, according to a study published in Schizophrenic Bulletin.
Researchers analyzed a group of participants in their early 20s who regularly used marijuana. All of them had started using the drug around 16 or 17 years of age and had smoked daily for approximately three years, but then had been drug free for two years prior to the study.
They were compared with a group of healthy controls, people with a marijuana use disorder, participants with schizophrenia with no history of substance abuse, and schizophrenia subjects with a marijuana use disorder. In total, there were 97 participants.
Results showed that participants who began using marijuana regularly at 16 or 17 had deterioration in the thalamus of the brain, which is important for learning, memory and communication. They also had abnormal changes in the brain that impairs everyday function and academic performance.
In addition, the deterioration in the thalamus resembled deterioration found in schizophrenic patients who use marijuana. Of the participants who were schizophrenic and marijuana users, 90 percent had been using the drug heavily prior to developing the disorder. They also noted that those with a family history of schizophrenia could increase their risk of developing the disorder by using marijuana.