Physical changes have been found in specific area of the brain associated with schizophrenia in adolescents who use cannabis.
New research from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has shown how cannabis use during adolescence can interact with the COMT gene to cause physical changes in the brain.
The COMT gene gives instructions for making enzymes which breakdown dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that conducts signals from one nerve to another. They are particularly important in areas of the brain that control reward and pleasure.
Adolescent cannabis use interacts with some forms of COMT to cause physical changes in the brain and increase the risk of schizophrenia.
Stuy shows physical changes in the brain
“This is the first study to show that the combined effects of the COMT gene with adolescent cannabis use cause physical changes in the brain regions associated with schizophrenia. It demonstrates how genetic, developmental and environmental factors interact to modulate brain function in schizophrenia and supports previous behavioral research which has shown the COMT gene to influence the effects of adolescent cannabis use on schizophrenia-related behaviors,” said Dr. Aine Behan, Department of Physiology RCSI and lead author. “Increased knowledge on the effects of cannabis on the brain is critical to understanding youth mental health both in terms of psychological and psychiatric well-being.”
Studies like this give clues to the working of the brain and the source of schizophrenia. The doctors are not saying the relationship here is causal, but there is a relationship and further study is required to understand the nuances associated with the disease and drug use.
Source: Nature’s Neuropsychopharmacology, ScienceDaily