Study shows Marijuana in adolescence may cause psychiatric disorders

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PotIf your young teens are smoking marijuana, let them know it could lead to schizophrenia, according to a recent study.

Regular marijuana use in adolescence, but not adulthood, may permanently impair brain function and cognition, and may increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, according to the from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Researchers hope that the study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology — a publication of the journal Nature – will help to shed light on the potential long-term effects of marijuana use, particularly as lawmakers in Maryland and elsewhere contemplate legalizing the drug.

"Over the past 20 years, there has been a major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with some evidence that use in adolescence could be damaging," says the study's senior author Asaf Keller, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 are at greater risk of permanent cognitive deficits, and have a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. There likely is a genetic susceptibility, and then you add marijuana during adolescence and it becomes the trigger."

"Adolescence is the critical period during which marijuana use can be damaging," says the study's lead author, Sylvina Mullins Raver, a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in Neuroscience in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "We wanted to identify the biological underpinnings and determine whether there is a real, permanent health risk to marijuana use."

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