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Study: Teens Using Marijuana May Develop Permanent Brain Abnormalities

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File photo of a person taking marijuana out of a plastic bag. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

A Virginia man with the last name Stoner is facing drug charges after police found more than $10,000 worth of marijuana plants at his home. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (CBSDC) — A new study suggests that adolescents who smoke marijuana may be causing irreparable damage to their brains.

Researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland found that younger marijuana users could even have increased risk of developing schizophrenia due to their use of the psychotropic drug.

According to Health Canal, the team involved in the preclinical study did not notice such degenerative effects of marijuana in adult users.

“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,” senior author Asaf Keller, Ph.D., was quoted as saying. “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.”

Keller added, “There likely is a genetic susceptibility, and then you add marijuana during adolescence and it becomes the trigger.”

Researchers first observed what are called cortical oscillations, or neuron activity in the brain, in adolescent mice. When they observed altered activity in the younger mice, as well as impaired cognitive behavior, they ran the same tests on adult mice – with very different results.

“We looked at the different regions of the brain,” Keller told Health Canal. “The back of the brain develops first, and the frontal parts of the brain develop during adolescence. We found that the frontal cortex is much more affected by the drugs during adolescence.”

Keller additionally noted that those areas of the brain control “executive functions such as planning and impulse control,” and is “the area most affected in schizophrenia.”

The study was published in the journal Nature, in a publication called Neuropsychopharmacology.

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