Teens are always at an increased risk of substance abuse and mental health disorders related to it. The teenage excitement is palpable in the adventurous deeds adolescents indulge in to get an adrenaline rush. Many of them, in a fit of exhilaration, also indulge in substance abuse. But they seem unaware that these deeds may have dire consequences, making them addicted for life.
Exposure to substances like marijuana during the teenage may lead to various mental health disorders, including as serious as schizophrenia. According to a research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex and highlighted by medicalnewstoday.com on January 17, 2016, marijuana addiction in adolescence can lead to schizophrenia-like changes in the brain.
Marijuana, or cannabis, provides a euphoric sensation to the user. However, with heavy and prominent doses, it can bring anxiety, fear and panic too. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) statistics show that 15 percent of eighth graders have tried marijuana and over 1 percent use it daily. Teenage addiction to marijuana can hamper the cognitive development and affect brain systems which are in a process of maturing.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive constituent of marijuana, which causes significant behavioral changes, according to researchers at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Ontario, Canada.
The study attempted to show the prolonged effects of THC in teens which are similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia by experimenting on rodents. The team of researchers carried out behavioral tests on the rodents which are commonly observed in schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Using a combination of behavioral and molecular analyses with in vivo neuronal electrophysiology, the team compared the long-term effects of THC exposure in adolescents and adults.
Persistent behavioral, neuronal and molecular changes were observed during the study which were quite similar to the neuropsychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia. There were no harmful and long-term effects in adult rodents who were exposed to THC, except from little deficits of cognition and memory.
However, the adolescent rodents who were on THC showed symptoms of anxiety, social withdrawal, cognitive disorganization and abnormal levels of dopamine. All these are generally present in a schizophrenic patient.
All the abnormalities which were seen in the adolescent rodents bear a resemblance to the positive and negative schizophrenia-related endophenotypes. A state of neuronal hyperactivity was observed in the mesocorticolimbic dopamine (DA) pathway. Several prefrontal cortical molecular pathways were also profoundly altered. These altered pathways are consistent effects seen in sub-cortical DAergic dysregulation, which is a known cerebral characteristic of schizophrenia.
Resembling neuropsychiatric pathology, the activity which was heavily under the influence of THC, produced substantial behavioral, neuronal, and molecular mutations. However, the risk factors for adolescents and adults were different in terms of such markers.
The researchers believed that the study provided substantial evidence in the effect of marijuana on adolescents. The widespread use of marijuana among the teenagers should be curbed to stop the occurrence of mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
Seconding this, lead researcher, Dr. Steven Laviolette, Ph.D., said, “Adolescence is a critical period of brain development, and the adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable. Health policy makers need to ensure that marijuana, especially marijuana strains with high THC levels, stays out of the hands of teenagers.”
Way to recovery
Addiction of any kind is definitely not good for teenagers which has potential to give rise to mental disorders too. If your loved one is addicted to any substance, please seek medical help because he might be battling with both substance abuse and other mental disorders.
The Florida Dual Diagnosis Helpline can help you get the best integrated treatment programs which address both the conditions. Chat online with one of our experts or call at 866-337-7631 anytime for more information.