Pot Smokers and Schizophrenic Patients May Share Similar Brain Changes

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The latest data suggest that it’s possible to be a pothead.

Teens who were heavy marijuana smokers, smoking every day for about three years, had more difficulty performing memory tasks and had abnormal brain structure changes compared with those who had never used the drug.

The findings, published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, add to the debate over how potentially damaging marijuana can be on the brain, and how long lasting cannabis’ influence on brain structures is. Previous studies found memory loss among marijuana users, but scientists continue to struggle with teasing apart whether marijuana contributes to these memory problems, or whether those with memory issues tend to turn to marijuana more frequently.

The latest study involved nearly 100 teens between ages 16 and 17 who were split into four groups: those who had used marijuana in the past, those who had not, schizophrenia patients who had never used marijuana and schizophrenia patients who had. The participants reported not abusing any drugs other than marijuana.

(MORE: The Link Between Marijuana and Schizophrenia)

The researchers performed MRI scans on the participants’ brains and compared various anatomical structures; the healthy former marijuana smokers and the schizophrenic participants who had smoked marijuana both showed shrinkage of regions in the brain connected with working memory compared with the healthy and schizophrenic teens who had not used marijuana. And this change apparently had real effects; when all of the participants took memory tests, the healthy volunteers who never used marijuana scored 37 times higher on average than those who had smoked pot, and the schizophrenic patients who hadn’t used marijuana scored four times higher than their schizophrenic counterparts who had.

The results are especially troubling for those with mental-health issues, or may be at greater risk of them. “The abuse of popular street drugs, such as marijuana, may have dangerous implications for young people who are developing or have developed mental disorders,” study author Dr. John Csernansky, the chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago, said in a statement. “This paper is among the first to reveal that the use of marijuana may contribute to the changes in brain structure that have been associated with having schizophrenia.”

While the study doesn’t establish that smoking pot can cause schizophrenia, it does suggest that marijuana use should be investigated as a possible contributor to brain changes that can mirror those linked to the psychotic disorder. The authors also acknowledge that further research — conducted on a population of people over an extended period of time — is needed to better understand whether certain structural differences make it more likely that people will abuse marijuana, or whether cannabis can actually contribute to these anatomical differences.

MORE: Marijuana Linked to Increased Stroke Risk

83 comments
JasonAlanGlazier
JasonAlanGlazier

I have tried cannabis for the first time I have schizophrenia the voices in my head are there but no longer loudly like them yelling at me it does work!This is why we need to have cannabis marijuana legalized in the usa!

nananutters
nananutters

I wasted a basket of eggs on the pretentious article. another shotty attempt at keeping us in line, demanding normal and defining what it all means. lick a stick tim

www.bulksmsbase.com
www.bulksmsbase.com

"Teens who were heavy marijuana smokers, smoking every day for about three years, had more difficulty performing memory tasks and had abnormal brain structure changes compared with those who had never used the drug." This is a very good advice for those who will not destroy his/her destine. keep it up.

www.bulksmsbase.com
www.bulksmsbase.com

"Pot Smokers and Schizophrenic Patients May Share Similar Brain Changes". I hope this discovery is spread for those smokers to know. Thanks.

RightWing
RightWing

@www.bulksmsbase.com I agree but the pot lovers will come up with all kinds of excuses to stick up for their favorite pastime addiction.

bulksmsbase1
bulksmsbase1

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HeatherSchuller
HeatherSchuller

My mom is schizophrenic and never smoked marijuana, I suffer from bipolar like so many other woman in my family. This is an environmental and family disease. I was diagnosed in 2007 and didn't use marijuana at all. I was a zombie on the meds they had me on, plus I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and had hideous migraines. The only way I can function today without being a zombie and relieve the pain is to manage it using cannabis as opposed to the twenty medicines they had me on which in return only attack my other organs and I still had manic attacks on them. The whole thing is ridiculous. My blog shows how keeping this plant on a schedule I is ridiculous and I'm on a mission to get the truth out http://heatherlschuller.wordpress.com/

lipjo
lipjo

schizophrenia and related mental illnesses are related to massive memory losses. I have schizoaffective disorder and I can tell you after being diagnosed for 9 years that's most of the problem with my everyday life. Your brain is trained by you and what you interact with in everyday life and when you forget all that, piece by piece, if your memory comes back, it will only be trained to negative actions and reactions, experiences and most of all, the most traumatic experiences of your life. It's not marijuana necessarily that causes this, but many things at once. In degress, some drugs can "hurry up" that process and cause psychosis. Its also on how you take in your surroundings, as some people are actually born with mental illness, which is linked to the adding of traumatic events and how the brain digest those happenings in everyday life. I conclude that some prescription medicine can "train" your brain to think that way as well. Some mental illnesses are, if treated over time, curable. Some keep it, some don't.

brenro12
brenro12

After over a century they're still grasping at straws trying to prove that marijuana is somehow dangerous. The public is enlightened. It's time to give it up.

Askjiir
Askjiir

I had a bad effect of this drug.  Many I know have gotten schizophrenic by it. I find the pro weed propaganda and hate campaign against any doubters, to be a very harmful trend. Please post these findings without feeling guilty brave Journalist. Let them not destroy free speech!

simonep1
simonep1

@Askjiir  This is the most absurd comment I have ever read.  Schizophrenia is by far caused by genetic disposition.  Research widely agrees that marijuana only affects the incidence rates of schizophrenia if it is regularly smoked at a young age (early teens and earlier) - and by approximately 2% at that.  


It's not about free speech - it's about ignorance, stupidity, faulty research, political agendas, and pharmaceutical companies.

Nick99
Nick99

@simonep1 @Askjiir @simonep1 - I agree with @Askjiir  - unfortunately I have friends who smoked every day for couple of years before reaching 20 and got schizophrenia without any genetic predisposition. Hallucinations, paranoia, hearing voices, memory loss...  I would pay to be wrong.... Not enough studies are done on a long term effect of pot. 

DouglasJ.Heuer
DouglasJ.Heuer

did someone say looney-toons journalism. This article is too funny, sarcasm at best..... ROFL.

Pix2Flix
Pix2Flix

Most likely the study was funded by drug companies. Think of how much money they stand to lose (and are loosing) as people find alternative ways in which to treat their mental health issues.

GregBert
GregBert

so this kid smoked "cali green" and look at the poor grammar and writing skills in the post. Hmmmm....

charlyclay69
charlyclay69

too funny.... come up with something new please.... I smoked at least a sack a day of that cali green for my senior year and I dont remember my senior year in HS.... and somehow i was on the honor roll 3.5+ avg did really good in any sport played... Soccer/Track/Baseball..... I had never gotten above the average D's and C's ever in school.... but somehow weed triggered memory loss and bad grades for that year  WTFE get a new one and come back w/ something that matters... Weed isnt bad

rabautius
rabautius

The same old prohibitionist lies again and again, well paid by state agencies and religious organizations, no matter if protestant oder narconon.

Paulpot
Paulpot

Cannabis is a treatment for schizophrenia and various mental illness'.

A lot of people with problems know that and that is why they use it.
Police also know this and they have a tendency to search and arrest people who they know have or appear to have mental illness. 
Prohibition says we will deal with mental illness by arresting the mentally ill.
It is prohibition that causes depression and other symptoms of mental illness.
Pharmaceutical drugs are also known to cause problems for the mentally ill as does alcohol but these are legal, pills are even forced onto many mental patients.
Prohibition and the pharma-narco state are responsible for the mental health problems of millions of people. 
Prohibition forced mental illness on the community.

JonathanBirch
JonathanBirch

I only ever felt schizophrenic or changes in brain behaviour after I took prescription drugs. Marijuana simply opened up my mind to the truth.

fastreflexx
fastreflexx

Poorly conducted 'study' and a true disservice to the movement of truth. Shame on you for this propaganda. Luckily the american public is getting smarter and realizing these ridiculous statements for what they are. Lies. 

MaryMiller4
MaryMiller4

I think that everyone that commented on this 'study' (and put in quotes for a reason, it certainly would not pass as a 'study' in most universities given the size of the population, the lack of ruling out other drug uses (including allopathic medications), as well as what the 'pot' is….Since there is no such thing at "the pot", variant to strains used in the study (or elsewhere), it's truly misleading; you need to have all participants smoking the same strain of species, with the same exact mri response to a genetic condition (since we are talking about a mental illness that has a proven genetic deficiency), to the same exact areas of the brain, long term function etc.  


To come up with a realistic conclusion about that ONE strain of Cannabis!!  This is for only ONE strain, you would need to test all strains (3 major strains with various crossbred and hybrids) in the Sativa strain alone, there currently are a known 167 various varieties of breeds, and cross breeds) each of these breeds contain a specific level of all canabanoids, THCA, CBDs, etc, which would have very specific changes to brain chemistry; not to mention how many addition Indica strains there are as well!  It is well known even in our country that currently does NO studies on medical effect of cannabis, that the main strain of Indica, has a depressing element (or relaxation), were as the Sativa main strain has a energetic high to users.   If this is true then "pot" whatever that may be they they used as a study, would not give consistent results regardless, because all users would have had to use the exact same strain, the exact breed, coming from the same plant!  This would have to have a specific plant with specific growth conditions being identical, using the same plant almost since plants can variant.  This is silly!


This is an attempt by whoever funded this study to backlash folks who need this for medical reasons, to backlash both Washington State as well as Colorado for legalizing the drug, and to show 'proof' why the people (including Charlotte Figi, with severe epilepsy) are using "pot" (again, which pot?), should be slapped on the wrist, and stopped.


The reality; this is no different than the cigarette industry protecting itself by conjecture that cigarettes weren't causing lung cancer, causing addiction, that second hand smoke had "no known affect on children growing up in smoker households (ending up with severe asthma and other breathing related problems).  I suspect we will hear more shock studies on "pot", because  it has a strong lobbyist to avoid this plant from being properly investigated and studied:  i.e., the alcohol lobbyist, the tobacco lobbyists, the tea party lobbyists, the pharmaceutical industry (who by the way, concludes there is no proof of medical use of Cannabis, but produces two strains of pills used for cancer, et al:  marinol and stativanol.  If it has no medical benefit whatsoever, these pills would not exist).

curtisgarcia66
curtisgarcia66

This explains why so many marijuana users I've come into contact with have the apparent IQ of your average first grader.

nerdsignal
nerdsignal

This article is nothing more than horrible propaganda. The key phrase throughout is

The participants reported not abusing any drugs other than marijuana.

The young users most likely have consumed alcohol and other drugs if they have been exposed to marijuana. It is proven that alcohol has drastic effects on the brain at such a young age.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

I have long suspected that the rash of murder-suicides in schools throughout America might have something to do with pot smoking, it being the drug of choice among teens.

E1033
E1033

@TylerThompson @E1033 @mary.waterton I'm using a comment to make a comment to make a point to readers who don't understand the topic I'm speaking on.  I honestly don't care if she is sarcastic or not.  I only need the sheep to have that info in their heads to create cognitive dissonance the next time they hear similar information to this article.  Thank you for reading the comment.  1 down, many more to go.

E1033
E1033

@mary.waterton  The drug of choice among teens is prescription drugs prescribed to them by their doctors.  How do you conclude something so irrational about marijuana?  None of those shooters were linked to marijuana use yet they all used prescription drugs.  You need to get checked out yourself.

Duncan_20903
Duncan_20903

@ChrisGibbons, it's bad form to presume that journalists walk in lockstep or speak with one voice. That's true even for journalists that work for the same publication. Ms. Szalavitz has demonstrated that she's ethically grounded and is interested in uncovering and promoting the truth. Ms. Sifferlan has now demonstrated that she's a fan of propaganda and has a reckless disregard for the truth. As far as Time Magazine is concerned the editor may just be interested in providing the confidence artists with "equal exposure" out of some misguided sense of "ethical" "responsibility".

I'm sure Ms. Sifferlan believes her intentions in producing this load of propaganda to be good intentions. It's simply amazing how many otherwise honest people don't have a problem promoting propaganda which consists of nothing other than bald faced lies, half truths and hysterical rhetoric when it comes to this particular issue. Those people should sell their good intentions to the Devil for paving material. I understand that he's building a new highway to hell to accommodate the influx of propaganda spewing prohibitionists. That's the only thing that "good" intentioned lies produced to promote their confidence game are good for..

Well, everyone that's read this comments column should learn a very valuable lesson; you just can't fool a prohibitionist. Well, that is unless you dress up a fatherly, scientist looking guy in a lab coat and have him deliver the propaganda in a somber tone of authoritative gravitas. Then you can get them to fall for just about anything you can possibly imagine. 

BlueStockings24
BlueStockings24

I just want to scream my head off when I see headlines such as these above.  MAY????  MAY???   When and where did real journalism take a hike?  Today's media is …PERHAPS, COULD BE, WATCH OUT, MAY … it's all bull crap by TOO MANY PHONEY JOURNALISTS … Thank you now I feel better.

Byron … thank you for a lucid and thought provoking response to this madness. 

SlabSquathrust
SlabSquathrust

@BlueStockings24 

Words such as May, perhaps, suggests are all entirely correct.  In fact as a biologist myself, I applaud such usage in journalism.  Use of these words is known as hedging and it is needed to express the uncertainty with any scientific research.  While the research cannot conclusively say heavy marijuana use is linked to certain mental disorders, the correlation is unique enough that the authors can say with something like 95% confidence that the two events are not random coincidence and is statistically significant.  Even in Byrons article you see these same words.  See "capsule suggests" and "may be biomarkers".  Welcome to the wonderful world of science.  

Now as for my own opinion on marijuana use.  Just like any other drug, food, or activity, enjoy it in moderation.  You will avoid any potential health issues from over consumption and won't be consumed by chasing that next high.