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Monday, January 26, 2015

How Marijuana Use And Mental Illness May Be Linked

If there is one explanation for the popularity of services offering mental health support in North Carolina among the families who may be concerned about the drug use of their teen or young adult, it is because of the correlation between mental illness and the abuse of drugs like marijuana.

Indeed, studies have been carried out in the past drawing associations between marijuana use and an increased risk for such mental illnesses as depression, anxiety and psychosis (schizophrenia). However, it has been more difficult to pinpoint marijuana use as a direct contributor to these conditions, and if so, to what extent.

What is known is that the relationship has been shown to be affected by how much of the drug is used, the teen or young adult's age at first use and their genetic vulnerability. There is an especially strongly-evidenced link between marijuana use and psychotic disorders in those with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability.

Recent research has indicated a heightened risk of the development of psychosis for those marijuana users carrying a specific variant of the AKT1 gene, which codes for an enzyme that affects dopamine signaling in the striatum. This is a part of the brain that becomes activated and flooded with dopamine in the presence of certain stimuli.

According to one study, daily marijuana users with this gene variant face a seven times higher risk than those who use the drug infrequently or not at all - another reason for concerned families to inquire about the appropriate mental health support in North Carolina when they suspect their teen or young adult of marijuana abuse.

Another study suggested that an increased risk of psychosis also applied to adults who used marijuana in adolescence and while carrying a specific variant of the gene for catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme responsible for the degradation of such neurotransmitters as norepinephrine and dopamine.

Patients who already have schizophrenia have also been shown to see the course of their illness worsen as a consequence of marijuana use. Even non-schizophrenic users of the drug have been known to experience a brief psychotic reaction, particularly from a high dose, although this does fade as the drug wears off.

Nonetheless, with marijuana also having known - if less consistent - associations with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and personality disorders, it's clear just how crucial the right mental health support in North Carolina is to the teen and young adult abusers of marijuana.

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