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.