Time and over again, debates have been raised against the link between drug abuse and Schizophrenia. A recent study done by scientists at North Shore University has found out that use of marijuana could infact aggravate genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a form of mental disorder that usually appears in late adolescence in males. On the contrary, females tend to develop schizophrenia later, in their mid-20s and beyond possibly due to environmental damage.
Very less was known about whether the condition itself predisposes the affected individual to resort to drug abuse.
Several images of the brain were obtained from four different classes of individuals involved in the study. This included teenage marijuana smokers who used the drug daily for at least one year, adolescent schizophrenia patients who didn't smoke marijuana, schizophrenia patients who regularly used marijuana regularly and healthy, non-smoking individuals. The study was limited to the male population.
By comparing the images obtained, the researchers were able to arrive at few conclusions regarding drug abuse and schizophrenia. A specific part of the brain the arcuate nucleus, believed to play a role in cognitive function was underdeveloped in both schizophrenia patients and in marijuana users. It is formed by a bundle of fibers that connects the front of the brain to deeper regions.
Surprisingly, this growth deficiency was only seen on the left side in teenagers with schizophrenia, while schizophrenia patients who also abuse marijuana showed problems on both sides of the brain.
The results of the finding hold particular significance in vulnerable individuals who smoke marijuana, as there might be an increased risk for development of mental illness.
The study has provided valuable insights to further explore the brain mechanisms that could be involved in drug abuse and its frequent association with mental illness. More studies would be required to establish a definitive link with supportive evidence.