Does High-Potency Marijuana Do More Damage To The Brain?

There’s been a long and heated debate about whether marijuana actually triggers long-term changes in a person, both neurologically and psychologically. Some research has found that pot is linked to psychotic symptoms, and it’s certainly been linked to schizophrenia across multiple studies.

However, it’s a bit of a chicken-or-egg problem, since it can be difficult to tell which is the pre-existing “condition,” the pot smoking or the psychological/psychotic symptoms. Now, a new study from King’s College London finds that smoking skunk, a high-potency variation of pot, is linked to changes in the white matter connections between the two hemispheres of the brain. And this seems to be true whether a smoker experiences psychosis or not.

Skunk has higher levels of the psychoactive compound Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than “regular” pot, and has become much more prevalent in recent years, as people seek out more potent versions of the drug.

The researchers scanned the brains of 56 people who had sought treatment for a first episode of psychosis, and 43 healthy controls. The team looked at the density in the brain’s corpus callosum, the vast network of white matter tracks that extend from neurons in one hemisphere to cells in the other. Damage to the white matter connections means less efficient communication between brain cells, which itself can be linked to cognitive problems.

Study: High-Potency Marijuana Linked With Neural Damage

GREAT BRITAIN:  In scanning the brains of drug users, researchers at Kings College London found smokers of high-potency pot had smaller amounts of white brain matter inside their corpus callosum, a neural pathway connecting the left and right halves of the brain.

While pot smokers generally showed more damage to the corpus callosum than non-smokers, those who smoked super strong weed known as ‘skunk’ showed more significant white matter loss.

Scientists performed MRI scans on the brains of 56 patients who had visited a London hospital reporting a first episode of psychosis. The brains of 43 healthy participants were also scanned. All the participants were surveyed about their drug habits.