The effect of marijuana use on the risk for schizophrenia.

Center for Addiction Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston.
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 5.81). 11/2012; 73(11):1463-1468. DOI: 10.4088/JCP.12012co1c
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: Epidemiological studies suggest that Cannabis use during adolescence confers an increased risk for developing psychotic symptoms later in life. However, despite their interest, the epidemiological data are not conclusive, due to their heterogeneity, thus modeling the adolescent phase in animals is useful for investigating the impact of Cannabis use on deviations of adolescent brain development that might confer a vulnerability to later psychotic disorders. Although scant, preclinical data seem to support the presence of impaired social behaviors, cognitive and sensorimotor gating deficits as well as psychotic-like signs in adult rodents after adolescent cannabinoid exposure, clearly suggesting that this exposure may trigger a complex behavioral phenotype closely resembling a schizophrenia-like disorder. Similar treatments performed at adulthood were not able to produce such phenotype, thus pointing to a vulnerability of the adolescent brain towards cannabinoid exposure. The neurobiological substrate of the adolescent vulnerability are still largely unknown and experimental studies need to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanism underlying these effects. However, the few data available seem to suggest that heavy adolescent exposure to cannabinoids is able to modify neuronal connectivity in specific brain areas long after the end of the treatment. This is likely due to disruption of maturational events within the endocannabinoid system during adolescence that in turn impact on the correct neuronal refinement peculiar of the adolescent brain, thus leading to altered adult brain functionality and behavior.
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    ABSTRACT: Cannabis derivatives are among the most widely used illicit substances among young people. The addictive potential of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major active ingredient of cannabis is well documented in scientific literature. However, the consequence of THC exposure during adolescence on occurrence of addiction for other drugs of abuse later in life is still controversial. To explore this aspect of THC pharmacology, in the present study, we treated adolescent rats from postnatal day (PND) 35 to PND-46 with increasing daily doses of THC (2.5–10 mg/kg). One week after intoxication, the rats were tested for anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze (EPM) test. One month later (starting from PND 75), rats were trained to operantly self-administer heroin intravenously. Finally, following extinction phase, reinstatement of lever pressing elicited by the pharmacological stressor, yohimbine (1.25 mg/kg) was evaluated. Data revealed that in comparison to controls, animals treated with chronic THC during adolescence showed a higher level of anxiety-like behavior. When tested for heroin (20 μg per infusion) self-administration, no significant differences were observed in both the acquisition of operant responding and heroin intake at baseline. Noteworthy, following the extinction phase, administration of yohimbine elicited a significantly higher level of heroin seeking in rats previously exposed to THC. Altogether these findings demonstrate that chronic exposure to THC during adolescence is responsible for heightened anxiety and increased vulnerability to drug relapse in adulthood.
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