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article imageSmoking high-strength skunk cannabis damages the brain

By Stephen Morgan     Nov 28, 2015 in Health
A new study suggests smoking high-strength "skunk" cannabis can damage the brain by breaking down communications between its two halves.
Researchers in London have carried out extensive analyses of users of the high-strength cannabis called "skunk" and have found out nerve fibers in skunk-users get seriously damaged. The nerves in question carry messages between the right and left hemispheres of the brain and it appears that communication between the two halves could be impaired.
The scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to compare the brains of 56 patients who had reported an episode of psychosis and 43 healthy volunteers. They looked at the largest region of white matter in the brain called the the corpus callosum, and compared the same areas among people, who didn't smoke cannabis and those people who smoked ordinary cannabis.
Brain’s white matter obtained from diffusion tensor imaging. Photograph: Institute of Psychiatry
Brain’s white matter obtained from diffusion tensor imaging. Photograph: Institute of Psychiatry
Institute of Psychiatry
The Guardian quotes Paola Dazzan, a neurobiologist from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, who said that "what we can say is if it’s high potency, and if you smoke frequently, your brain is different from the brain of someone who smokes normal cannabis, and from someone who doesn’t smoke cannabis at all.”
Dazzan explained that "the effects appeared to be linked to the level of active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in cannabis. While traditional forms of cannabis contain 2 to 4 % THC, the more potent varieties (of which there are about 100), can contain 10 to 14% THC."
According to the Mail Online: "white matter is the part of the brain made up of the "axons", or neural fibres, along which nerve signals travel. The corpus callosum happens to be especially rich in cannabinoid "receptors", proteins that trigger biochemical effects in response to THC."
DTI image of corpus callosum shown in red and superimposed on a background MRI image of brain. Photo...
DTI image of corpus callosum shown in red and superimposed on a background MRI image of brain. Photograph: Institute of Psychiatry
Institute of Psychiatry
The full implications of this are not known, but it may also be an important factor in bouts of psychosis reported among people who smoke skunk. The researchers can't yet be absolutely sure, but other studies have suggested a link between skunk use and psychological problems.
A previous article in Digital Journal reported on another British study over a period of six years involving almost 800 people, which found that people who consume skunk are five times more likely to develop psychotic disorders than non-users.
Dazzan stressed that there is an "urgent need" to educate health professionals and the general public about the risks of smoking skunk cannabis, adding that, "as we have suggested previously, when assessing cannabis use it is extremely important to gather information on how often and what type of cannabis is being used. These details can help quantify the risk of mental health problems and increase awareness on the type of damage these substances can do to the brain.''
What is also worrying is that skunk is fast becoming the most smoked form of cannabis, especially in London.
More about Cannabis, highstrength, Skunk, Damages
 
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