It’s possible to reverse the negative effect of marijuana on the adolescent brain: Western University Researchers

The province was the first to announce detailed plans last month for cannabis once the federal government makes it legal in July 2018.
The province was the first to announce detailed plans last month for cannabis once the federal government makes it legal in July 2018. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Researchers at Western University have made a timely discovery to reverse the negative effects of marijuana on a young person’s brain.

Chronic weed use in adolescents, and specifically exposure to a chemical in it called THC, reduces activity in a neurotransmitter in the brain that is linked to psychiatric diseases such a schizophrenia.

But a study published Tuesday, spearheaded by Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry Professor Steven Laviolette, said pharmaceuticals can be used to boost activity in the GABA neurotransmitter so that it reverses behavioural changes that could happen later in life.

“We actually went in, and tried to restore the GABA system by activating GABA receptors directly in the prefrontal cortex,” said Laviolette, during AM980’s the Andrew Lawton Show Tuesday afternoon.

Story continues below advertisement

LISTEN: Andrew Lawton Speaks with Steven Laviolette about reversing the negative effects of marijuana on teens

A team of researchers were able to restore the system and reverse the effects of psychiatric diseases, well into adult-hood, he explained.

“It suggests that someone that is suffering from these sorts of symptoms, if we can get into reverse these deficits in the GABA system, we can reverse some of these symptoms. ”

Laviolette says it’s not safe for young people to expose their developping brains to THC, but in light of incoming legislation to legalization the discovery carries importance.

“What this could mean is that if you are going to be using marijuana, in a recreational or medicinal way, you can potentially combine it with compounds that boost GABA to block the negative effects of THC.”

Story continues below advertisement

He warns people that high levels of THC are often found in currently available strains of marijuana on the black market, in part because it also has dependence producing properties.

“This is very concerning from a mental health perspective because it’s really these high levels of THC that’s causing the problems.”

Next steps will look into combining cannabinoid chemicals with compounds to boost the GABA system, in hopes of finding better treatments for a range of other mental health disorders including addiction, depression, and anxiety.

Sponsored content