An increased risk of serious psychiatric problems during adulthood has been noted after a regular consumption of marijuana during teen years, a new study claims.
Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine hope that the study will help to shed light on the potential long-term effects of marijuana use, particularly as lawmakers in Maryland and elsewhere contemplate legalizing the drug.
"Over the past 20 years, there has been a major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with some evidence that use in adolescence could be damaging," study's senior author Asaf Keller, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said.
"Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 are at greater risk of permanent cognitive deficits, and have a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. There likely is a genetic susceptibility, and then you add marijuana during adolescence and it becomes the trigger," the researcher said.
"Adolescence is the critical period during which marijuana use can be damaging," study's lead author, Sylvina Mullins Raver, a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Neuroscience in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said.
"We wanted to identify the biological underpinnings and determine whether there is a real, permanent health risk to marijuana use," she added.
The study is published in Neuropsychopharmacology - a publication of the journal Nature.