In a pre-clinical study, researchers from Western University in Ontario, Canada, studied the effects of long-term exposure to THC in both adolescent and adult rats.
They found changes in behavior as well as in brain cells in the adolescent rats that were identical to those found in schizophrenia. These changes lasted into early adulthood long after the initial THC exposure.
The young rats were “socially withdrawn and demonstrated increased anxiety, cognitive disorganization, and abnormal levels of dopamine, all of which are features of schizophrenia,” according to the article. The same effects were not seen in the adult rats.
“With the current rise in cannabis use and the increase in THC content, it is critically important to highlight the risk factors associated with exposure to marijuana, particularly during adolescence,” the researchers warn.