UK News - 'Skunk' cannabis may cause brain damage

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A research team from Kings College London and The University of Rome have found that smokers of the more potent 'skunk-like' cannabis can damage white matter in the brain. Specifically within an area of the brain that is responsible for communication between both two sides of the brain.

The risk of psychosis increasing with long term use of cannabis is well known and recent evidence suggests that this may be as a result of alterations in the brain function and structure. This new research is the first to investigate the effect of cannabis potency on brain structure.

The reason for the higher potency of 'skunk-like' cannabis, the most commonly used in the UK, is the increased level of the active ingredient THC (?9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

Senior researcher at Kings, Dr Dazzan, said 'We found that frequent use of high potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibres in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not. This reflects a sliding scale, where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage will be'.

MRI scanning techniques were used to scan 56 subjects who had already reported psychosis and 43 healthy volunteers. The Study concluded that white matter damage was significantly greater among heavy users of high potency cannabis compared with occasional or low potency users, irrespective of the presence of a psychotic disorder.

Dr Dazzan added: ‘There is an urgent need to educate health professionals, the public and policymakers about the risks involved with cannabis use'.

Ref. Kings College website