Cannabis might be legal in some states and countries now, but making it available for everyone – especially the youth – might not be a good idea.
A recent study published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal showed that adolescent boys with genetic predisposition to schizophrenia experienced changes in brain development when they tried using cannabis before they were even 16. Compared to their peers, the boys developed a thinner cerebral cortex – the outer covering of the brain—over time, which could mean that marijuana somehow interferes with the development of that part of the brain. In fact, the heaviest weed users were the ones who sustained the most glaring changes. Boys and girls with low schizophrenia risk did not experience the same changes.
“We have a structural difference in the brain that appears to be there only if you combine cannabis use before 16 and a genetic risk for schizophrenia,” said Tomas Paus, lead author of the study. Even though Paus emphasized that there is still no proven causal relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia, his study is a great addition to a body of evidence suggesting a connection between marijuana use and schizophrenia risk.
According to Romina Mizrahi, director of the Focus on Youth Psychosis Prevention and research program at Toronto’s Center for Addiction and Mental Health, these studies can help researchers understand why some people are more vulnerable to cannabis effects than other people.
Regulating pot for younger people
A 2013 UNICEF report showed that Canadian youth are among the top young cannabis users in developed countries, with 20 percent of young Canadians admitting to using marijuana at least once within the previous year.
Mizrahi said that educating adolescents about cannabis risk is vital. “One of the main messages is for young people to delay trying cannabis at least until they are older than 16,” she said.
She also said that there should be stricter controls on marijuana sales, especially for the youth. “There should be a broad campaign to educate youth about the potential risks,” she said.
Do you believe that weed use for teenagers should be restricted? Voice your opinions in the comments section below – your opinion matters to the nation.