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Can smoking marijuana trigger mental illness?

Health Point

August 25, 2011
Dear Jeff and Debra:

I have a lot of friends who say smoking marijuana is harmless for the most part and it should be legalized.

I've tried it a couple of times and don't really like it. I honestly don't know what everyone sees in it. But I wonder if it really is harmless. I've read different things about marijuana that point out some serious side effects, but what really surprised me is hearing it could cause mental illness. Is this true?


Dear Curious:

There is research suggesting smoking marijuana can increase the risk of schizophrenia among adolescents genetically predisposed to it. A particular brain region that is not fully developed during adolescents appears to be affected by marijuana and schizophrenia.

The study strongly suggests marijuana use can trigger schizophrenia if a teenager has a family history of the illness.

"Because this language/auditory pathway continues to develop during adolescence, it is most susceptible to the neurotoxins introduced into the body through marijuana use," said researcher Dr. Manzar Ashtari, an associate professor of radiology and psychiatry.

This study in no way infers that marijuana causes mental illness in all people who smoke it, although marijuana causes other problems such as impairment of attention, memory and the organization and integration of complex information.

According to co-principal investigator, Dr. Sanjiv Kumra, an assistant professor of psychiatry, "The finding suggest that in addition to interfering with normal brain development, heavy marijuana use in adolescents may also lead to an earlier onset of schizophrenia in individuals who are genetically predisposed to the disorder."

Marijuana has also been known to cause temporary psychosis in some users and is linked to anxiety disorders. In addition, it can lead to respiratory problems, cancer and addiction.

Jeff and Debra Jay, of Grosse Pointe, are professional interventionists and the authors of, "Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction." Debra Jay is the co-author of, "No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action." They can be contacted at (313) 882-6921 or lovefirst.net.

Jeff Jay and Debra Jay are the authors of "Love First: A New Approach to Intervention for Alcoholism and Drug Addiction," and Debra Jay is the author of "No More Letting Go: The Spirituality of Taking Action Against Alcoholism and Drug Addiction." Jeff and Debra Jay are professional interventionists who live in Grosse Pointe Farms. They may be contacted with your questions at (313) 882-6921 or at lovefirst.net.
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