According to Japanese researchers, genetic abnormalities bound with marijuana-activated brain chemicals appear connected to schizophrenia. Hiroshi Ujike, a lead researcher, of the Okayama University, observed that this result supplies genetic evidence that marijuana use can result in schizophrenia or a considerablelly increased risk of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is one of the greatest mental health challenges in the world, affecting roughly one of every 80 people and filling about a quarter of all hospital beds in the United States. For years, clinical scientists have known that abusing marijuana, also known as cannabis, can trigger hallucinations and delusions similar to symptoms often found in schizophrenia. Prior studies also show that cannabis used before age 20 raises the risk of schizophrenia six-fold.
According to the researchers, the hallucinogenic properties of marijuana, are connected to a biochemical found abundantly in the brain. The chemical, called cannabinoid receptor protein, studs the surfaces of brain cells and latches onto the active chemical within marijuana known as THC.
These sites are where marijuana acts on the brain.Ujike and his team examined the gene for the marijuana receptor in 115 Japanese patients with schizophrenia and an average age of 40.When they compared this gene in schizophrenics with the same gene in 130 normal men and woman of the same average age, they found distinct abnormalities in DNA sequences called nucleotides among the schizophrenics. Some of their nucleotides in the marijuana receptor gene appeared significantly more often than normal while others appeared less frequency.
Clinical neuroscientist, Carol Tamming at the University of Maryland, found that this was the first to report a potential abnormality of the cannabinoid system in schizophrenia. The importance of a finding here cannot be overstated, in that it would form a tissue target for drug development and allow targeted treatments to emerge for the illness.
It appears malfunctions in the brain's marijuana-linked circuitry may make one vulnerable to schizophrenia, Ujike said. This holds especially true for a condition called hebephrenic schizophrenia, which is marked by deterioration of personality, senseless laughter, disorganized thought and lack of motivation. These symptoms are similar to psychotic behavior sometimes triggered by severe cannabis abuse, which could mean the marijuana receptors in schizophrenics are far more active than they should be. Ujike stressed there is no evidence yet these genetic abnormalities can affect how the marijuana receptor actually acts in the brain.