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Heavy marijuana use may damage developing brain in teens, young adults
Date:2/2/2009

Adolescents and young adults who are heavy users of marijuana are more likely than non-users to have disrupted brain development, according to a new study. Pediatric researchers found abnormalities in areas of the brain that interconnect brain regions involved in memory, attention, decision-making, language and executive functioning skills. The findings are of particular concern because adolescence is a crucial period for brain development and maturation.

The researchers caution that the study is preliminary and does not demonstrate that marijuana use causes the brain abnormalities. However, "Studies of normal brain development reveal critical areas of the brain that develop during late adolescence, and our study shows that heavy cannabis use is associated with damage in those brain regions," said study leader Manzar Ashtari, Ph.D., director of the Diffusion Image Analysis and Brain Morphometry Laboratory in the Radiology Department of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The study appeared early last month in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. The current research builds on previous work by Ashtari and colleagues, who used the same imaging technology to analyze normal brain development in adolescent subjects.

In the current study, working with child psychiatrist Sanjiv Kumra, M.D., now at the University of Minnesota, Ashtari and colleagues performed imaging studies on 14 young men from a residential drug treatment center in New York State, as well as 14 age-matched healthy controls. All the study subjects were males, with an average age of 19. The researchers performed the imaging studies at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

The 14 subjects from the drug treatment center all had a history of heavy cannabis use during adolescence. On average, they had smoked marijuana from age 13 till age 18 or 19, and reported smoking nearly 6 marijuana joints daily in the final year before they stopped using the drug.


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Contact: Rachel Salis-Silverman
Salis@email.chop.edu
267-426-6063
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Source:Eurekalert  

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