Cannabis Use in Adolescence Could Trigger Schizophrenia

by Madhumathi Palaniappan on  April 27, 2017 at 2:07 PM Health Watch
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Highlights:
  • Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness linked to some psychological symptoms like memory problems and hallucinations.
  • Scientists have found the use of cannabis in adolescence to be linked with schizophrenia.
  • Young people who are at risk for psychiatric disorders must be cautious of their cannabis use in adolescence.
Schizophrenia is a serious brain disorder linked to a number of psychological symptoms. The brain disorder may be triggered by a genetic interaction with environmental factors.
Cannabis Use in Adolescence Could Trigger Schizophrenia
Cannabis Use in Adolescence Could Trigger Schizophrenia

Cannabis use in adolescence could be a trigger for schizophrenia, finds a new study by a research team from the Tel Aviv University.

The findings were published in the Human Molecular Genetics.

The research study conducted by Dr. Ran Barzilay, investigator of the study, said, "Our research demonstrates that cannabis has a differential risk on susceptible versus non-susceptible individuals."

"In other words, 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."

Linking the Effect of Cannabis Use to Schizophrenia
The scientists have exposed the mouse models with genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia. Mutant DISC-1 gene is susceptible to Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound in cannabis.

In a time period similar to adolescence, the mouse was found to be at a higher risk for lasting brain defects that were associated with onset of schizophrenia.

The four categories of mice that were used in the experiment includes

  • Genetically susceptible and exposed to cannabis
  • Genetically susceptible and not exposed to cannabis
  • Genetically intact and exposed to cannabis
  • Genetically intact and not exposed to cannabis
The experimental findings revealed that only the genetically susceptible mice had developed behavioral and biochemical brain pathologies which are related to schizophrenia after cannabis exposure.

Dr. Barzilay, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said, "The study was conducted on mice but it mimics a clinical picture of 'first episode' schizophrenia, which presents during adolescence in proximity to robust cannabis use."

The research team also studied the mechanism on how the gene interacts with cannabis.

Prof. Offen, said, "A protective mechanism was observed in the non-susceptible mice."

"This mechanism involves the upregulation of a protective neurotrophic factor, BDNF, in the hippocampus. We showed in the study that if we artificially deliver BDNF to the genetically susceptible mice, they could be protected from the deleterious effect of THC during adolescence.

The author concluded that, "This research clearly has implications in terms of public health."

"The novel protective mechanism identified in the study may serve as a basis for the future development of compounds capable of attenuating the deleterious effect of cannabis on brain development. However, until that time, it is important that young people at risk for psychiatric disorders (i.e., have psychiatric disorders in their family or have reacted strongly to drugs in the past) should be particularly cautious with cannabis use during adolescence."

Cannabis and Adolescence
Cannabis or marijuana is one of the commonly used illicit drugs in the United States. There is a range of developmental and social problems linked to adolescent use of marijuana.

Initially, the use of marijuana may have an impact on memory, attention and ability to think clearly. Later on, it may result in problematic behaviors that would lead to long-term consequences on health.

Facts on Schizophrenia
  • Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that distorts the way a person thinks, acts or expresses emotion.
  • Around 1% of the population may develop Schizophrenia.
  • About 2.7 million Americans may have schizophrenia.
  • Schizophrenia found to affect people who are in their early 20s usually.
  • 10% of schizophrenia patients tend to commit suicide or are more likely to have a drug or alcohol abuse problem.
References
  1. Hadar Segal-Gavish, Neta Gazit, Yael Barhum, Tali Ben-Zur, Michal Taler, Shay Henry Hornfeld, Irit Gil-Ad, Abraham Weizman, Inna Slutsky, Minae Niwa, Atsushi Kamiya, Akira Sawa, Daniel Offen, Ran Barzilay. BDNF Overexpression Prevents Cognitive Deficit Elicited by Adolescent Cannabis Exposure and Host Susceptibility Interaction. Human Molecular Genetics, 2017; DOI: 10.1093/hmg/ddx139
  2. 11 Facts About Schizophrenia - ( https:www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-schizophrenia)
  3. Adolescents and Marijuana - ( http://learnaboutmarijuanawa.org/factsheets/adolescents.htm)


Source: Medindia

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