Marijuana use in teens may cause inflammation linked to schizophrenia and other mental illnesses in the years ahead, a new study has found.
However, according to the team of researchers, an anti-inflammatory drug can stop its harmful effects.
The need to understand the health issues associated with the use of marijuana has increased more than ever, as the wave of weed legalization is sweeping the US.
Marijuana, which is becoming more and more popular among teens, has been found to be linked to several health disorders including mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
Past studies on the connection between schizophrenia and the use of marijuana have brought in an assortment of conclusions.
While some claim that the drug’s use creates mental health disorders, many have argued the other way around, claiming that people suffering from mental health issues are more likely to use it.
All of them, however, agreed that there is a correlation between schizophrenia and marijuana.
Now scientists at Johns Hopkins University have uncovered a likely mechanism, finding out how the drug can trigger schizophrenia in teens who are already genetically predisposed to it.
According to the new study, at least 10 genes could be associated with the inherited risks for schizophrenia.
To test their theory, the team at Johns Hopkins bred mice with an analogue gene that caused in them an animal version of schizophrenia.
They were given DISC1 gene to make them vulnerable to the brain damages and inflammation, causing the mental illness.
The mice were then injected with THC – a psychoactive compound found in marijuana – in the amounts that were roughly equal to what teenagers consume on average.
Dr Mikhail ‘Misha’ Pletnikov, a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins, said: ‘Essentially, we let them have their fun as teenagers and then let enough time elapse to their young adulthood, or in human terms the time when people reach their late 20s, are living an adult life and may begin to notice cognitive problems.’
The mice were then compared to two control groups of animals: the ones that didn’t have the faulty gene but were exposed to THC and the ones that had the faulty gene but weren’t exposed to THC.
After a suitable time, the mice were checked again to discover the findings of the study.
The researchers found that THC produced 56 inflammation-causing genes for the genetically predisposed mice. The inflammation, in turn, gave rise to memory and cognitive trouble in the mice.