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The nature of the teenage brain makes users of cannabis particularly at risk of developing addictive behaviors.
NEW YORK, NY – August 27, 2013 /Press Release/
The nature of the teenage brain makes users of cannabis amongst this population particularly at risk of developing addictive behaviors and suffering other long-term negative effects, according to researchers at the University of Montreal and New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
“Of the illicit drugs, cannabis is most used by teenagers since it is perceived by many to be of little harm. This perception has led to a growing number of states approving its legalization 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,” wrote Professor Didier Jutras-Aswad of the University of Montreal and Yasmin Hurd, PhD, of Mount Sinai. “While it is clear that more systematic scientiﬁc studies are needed to understand the long-term impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain and behavior, the current evidence suggests that it has a far-reaching inﬂuence on adult addictive behaviors particularly for certain subsets of vulnerable individuals.”
The researchers reviewed over 120 studies that looked at different aspects of the relationship between cannabis and the adolescent brain, including the biology of the brain, chemical reaction that occurs in the brain when the drug is used, the influence of genetics and environmental factors, in addition to studies into the “gateway drug” phenomenon. “Data from epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown an association between cannabis use and subsequent addiction to heavy drugs and psychosis (i.e. schizophrenia). 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,” Dr Jutras-Aswad said.