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Mental Illness and Marijuana Use; Does Study Reveal that Frequent Use of Strong Cannabis Affects the Brain

Does Smoking Marijuana Increase the Risk for Mental Illness:

Marijuana reform is moving ahead in the U.S., but the process could be much more efficient if the federal government changed the law.  Right now, marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug which means that it is viewed as very dangerous, highly addictive, and that it holds no medical value.  As a result of this Schedule 1 listing, research data on the affects of marijuana use is very limited.

More Research is Necessary on Marijuana Pros and Cons:

Advocates for marijuana reform relay that anecdotal evidence shows that medicinal marijuana can benefit patients suffering from several dozen diseases and detrimental conditions.  Critics believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and can be detrimental to the physical and mental well being of the user.  Psychosis is one detrimental effect that critics claim.  Does using marijuana cause mental illness, or is the onset of psychosis linked to the average age of a user which overlaps with the average age a person might experience a psychosis such as schizophrenia.

Marijuana Use and Psychosis:

A psychosis like schizophrenia often happens to an individual in their late teens or early twenties.  This also happens to be the age range during which many first time marijuana users begin to use.  Consequently, it is difficult to determine if marijuana can be identified as the cause of the mental illness or if the mental illness would have happened regardless of the marijuana use.  With the limited research that exists on cannabis use in people, definitive causality has not yet been established.  So, it appears that direct causation for both negative and positive consequences of marijuana use will be difficult to determine without additional research and analysis.

Does a Recent Study Show that Marijuana Use Causes Mental Illness:

King’s College in Pa. recently published findings that have grabbed headlines and the attention of both marijuana reform critics and advocates.  The study, from King’s College London, was published in the journal Psychological Medicine.  According to the study, smoking strong cannabis can lead to changes in the brain.  The study relayed that “skunk-like” cannabis affects that corpus callosum which is a bundle of neural fibers that allows communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  Lead researcher Dr. Paola Dazzan said that frequent use of high potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibers in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not.  More specifically, this study revealed that those who smoked strong marijuana every day had five times the normal risk of experiencing extended psychotic episodes.

It should be noted at this point that this is just one study that looked at a contingent of people from a specific geographic location that used a significantly potent form of marijuana.  It should also be noted that the study does not say that smoking marijuana will lead to psychosis, but that it may lead to the development of psychotic episodes.  The lead author relays that smoking marijuana elevates one’s risk of developing psychiatric problems, but it does not confirm that marijuana use results in mental disorder.  So it appears that once more, this research does not adequately reveal definitive answers, direct links, or causality.  Still, more research is necessary.

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