Cannabis

January 16, 2018

New study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging looks at the effects of heavy cannabis use on brain function and behavior

Young people with cannabis dependence have altered brain function that may be the source of emotional disturbances and increased psychosis risk that are associated with cannabis abuse, according to a new study published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. The alterations were most pronounced in people who started using cannabis at a young age. The findings reveal potential negative long-term effects of heavy cannabis use on brain function and behavior, which remain largely unknown despite the drug's wide use and efforts to legalize the substance.

"These brain imaging data provide a link between changes in brain systems involved in reward and psychopathology and chronic cannabis abuse, suggesting a mechanism by which heavy use of this popular drug may lead to depression and other even more severe forms of mental illness," said Dr. Cameron Carter, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

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These data and subsequent analysis suggest that different trajectories of adolescent cannabis use are associated with distinct patterns of neural reward circuit function in early adulthood. Escalating marijuana use presents a higher risk for impaired motivation, including elevated depressive symptoms, anhedonia and poor educational attainment. It follows that alterations, perhaps the degradations of the reward circuitry, represent the mechanism by which cannabis users fail to attain their potential, resulting in both developmental and dose-dependent impairment in their higher-level functioning.

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Conclusion: Medical marijuana laws appear to have contributed to increased prevalence of illicit cannabis use and cannabis use disorders. State-specific policy changes may also have played a role. While medical marijuana may help some, cannabis-related health consequences associated with changes in state marijuana laws should receive consideration by health care professionals and the public.

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This review provides an overview of the changing US epidemiology of cannabis use and associated problems. Adults and adolescents increasingly view cannabis as harmless, and some can use cannabis without harm. However, potential problems include harms from prenatal exposure and unintentional childhood exposure; decline in educational or occupational functioning after early adolescent use, and in adulthood, impaired driving and vehicle crashes; cannabis use disorders (CUD), cannabis withdrawal, and psychiatric comorbidity. Evidence suggests national increases in cannabis potency, prenatal and unintentional childhood exposure; and in adults, increased use, CUD, cannabis-related emergency room visits, and fatal vehicle crashes…more limited literature suggests that Medical Marijuana Laws (MMLs) have led to increased cannabis potency, unintentional childhood exposures, adult cannabis use, and adult CUD. Ecological-level studies suggest that MMLs have led to substitution of cannabis for opioids, and also possibly for psychiatric medications. Much remains to be determined about cannabis trends and the role of MMLs and RMLs in these trends. The public, health professionals, and policy makers would benefit from.

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INTRODUCTION:

Cannabis and its synthetic analogues are currently the most widely consumed illicit substances worldwide. Multiple alterations have been linked to its use, including cerebrovascular disease (CVD) or stroke, whose association with the substance has been based mainly on the hypothesis of transient vasoconstriction, which explains a large proportion of the cases reported. 

CONCLUSIONS:

There is a wide variety of reports of stroke associated with cannabis use in patients with no other risk factors. Noteworthy findings were presentation at young age and a strong temporal association, which place cannabis use as a potential risk factor for this population in line with the epidemiological and pathophysiological studies in this area.

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