New research from the scientists in Canada has revealed that teenagers who use cannabis regularly are more vulnerable to develop long-term hard drug addiction or develop psychosis than any other group.
Professor Didier Jutras-Aswad, from the University of Montreal in Canada, who led the team, said: ‘Data from epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown an association between cannabis use and cannabis addiction to heavy drugs and psychosis. He said:
“Interestingly, the risk to develop such disorders after cannabis exposure is not the same for all individuals and is correlated with genetic factors, the intensity of cannabis use and the age at which it occurs.
“When the first exposure occurs in younger versus older adolescents, the impact of cannabis seems to be worse in regard to many outcomes such as mental health, education attainment, delinquency and ability to conform to adult role.”
The harmful effects of cannabis.
The research suggests the teenage brain is more vulnerable to the harmful effects of cannabis. The latest study, that included the review of over 120 related studies, has revealed the effects of cannabis use on the developing adolescent brain.
Experiments conducted on rats, that are commonly used in experiments to determine to effect of substances on humans, showed that cannabis targets the area’s of the brain that deal with motivation, decision-making and habit forming, that develop rapidly during the teenage years.
Cannabis’ image as a social and party drug that has little major side effects is part of the problem as many teenage users are unaware of the damage smoking cannabis can have on their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
“Of the illicit drugs, cannabis is most used by teenagers since it is perceived by many to be of little harm,” Prof Jutras-Aswad said.
“This perception has led to a growing number of states (in the United States of America) approving its legalisation and increased accessibility.
“Most of the debates and ensuing policies regarding cannabis were done without consideration of its impact on one of the most vulnerable population, namely teens, or without consideration of scientific data.
Altering the development of the brain.
Data from the studies suggest that regular use of the drug at the adolescent stage can seriously affect how the brain develops and even impact on personality.
Prof Jutras-Aswad continued to say: “While it is clear that more systematic scientific studies are needed to understand the long-term impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain and behaviour, the current evidence suggests that it has a far-reaching influence on adult addictive behaviours particularly for certain subsets of vulnerable individuals.”
What else is suggested is that some groups, mainly teenagers, are more at risk than others, this means that more must be done to stop teenagers and young people from using this type of drug without knowing the real risks.
“Individuals who will develop cannabis dependence generally report a temperament characterised by negative affect, aggressivity and impulsivity, from an early age.
“Some of these traits are often exacerbated with years of cannabis use, which suggests that users become trapped in a vicious cycle of self-medication, which in turn becomes a dependence.
He added: “It is now clear from the scientific data that cannabis is not harmless to the adolescent brain, specifically those who are most vulnerable from a genetic or psychological standpoint.”
The team at the University of Montreal suggest that a form of test or screening should be developed to alert at-risk individuals of the dangers of the biological and mental side effects of cannabis use could have on their development.
Prof Jutras-Aswad concluded by saying: “Identifying these vulnerable adolescents, including through genetic or psychological screening, may be critical for prevention and early intervention of addiction and psychiatric disorders related to cannabis use.”
Co-author of the research, Dr Yasmin Hurd, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, added: “Continuing research should be performed to inform public policy in this area.
“Without such systematic, evidenced-based research to understand the long-term effects of cannabis on the developing brain, not only the legal status of cannabis will be determined on uncertain ground, but we will not be able to innovate effective treatments such as the medicinal use of cannabis plant components that might be beneficial for treating specific disorders.”
If you have a problem relating to cannabis or are worried about a friend who is using the drug then Addiction Helper can help you.
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