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Cannabis more damaging to adolescent brains than previously known

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

New research shows that teens who consume cannabis daily can suffer anxiety and depression. Smoking marijuana can have long-term irreversible effects on adolescent brains, and is more harmful to teens than previously known. The findings come from a study by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a psychiatric researcher from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

The study is the first to focus on long-term effects of cannabis use among teens, and is also the first to show that marijuana has a more damaging effect during adolescence and adulthood.

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According to Dr. Gobbi, "Teenagers who are exposed to cannabis have decreased serotonin transmission, which leads to mood disorders, as well as increased norepinephrine transmission, which leads to greater long-term susceptibility to stress."

The study points to the effect of cannabis use among adolescents on serotonin and norepinephrine specifically. Dr. Gobbi explains,"We wanted to know what happens in the brains of teenagers when they use cannabis and whether they are more susceptible to its neurological effects than adults."

Past studies have shown that cannabis affects behavior among teens. Dr. Gobbi says the current study is the first to identify the neurobiologic mechanisms that contributes to anxiety and depresion among teens who consume cannabis daily, and that teens are more susceptible to damage from marijuana use than are adults.