News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search

 


Cannabis causes cognitive concerns

22/11/2013

Cannabis causes cognitive concerns

Regular use of cannabis can cause serious cognitive impairment that persists beyond the period of being high, a speaker at next week’s cannabis and health symposium says.

University of Wollongong’s Associate Professor Nadia Solowij, who will be speaking at the New Zealand Drug Foundation’s cannabis and health symposium in Auckland, says memory, attention and higher cognitive functions were all impacted in the long-term by regular heavy cannabis use.

“The longer you use cannabis and the more heavily you use cannabis, and the younger you are when you start using cannabis, the greater the changes that we see in the actual structure of the brain,” Associate Professor Solowij said.

“The adolescent brain is more sensitive to insult from drugs, and we’ve been finding that the younger people start using, the worse the cognitive impairment.

“There are cognitive impairments that persist beyond the period of acute intoxication, and these are largely in the domains of memory, attention and higher cognitive functions.”

Associate Professor Solowij, who has been researching cannabis’ effects on the brain for over 20 years, said that her research has focussed on the relationship between cannabis use and schizophrenia and other mental health issues.

“We’re now trying to understand what is it that makes a person vulnerable to developing schizophrenia if they use cannabis.

“There are millions of cannabis users worldwide but clearly they don’t all develop schizophrenia so we’re trying to understand what makes a person vulnerable to developing schizophrenia if they use cannabis, and by what mechanisms might cannabis trigger psychosis.

“There’s really a fine line between diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar. They lie along the same sort of continuum of psychotic disorders. There may well be future streams of research looking more specifically at associations between cannabis use and bipolar.”

Associate Professor Solowij said she was concerned about the younger age at which people were starting to use cannabis.

“It’s one thing for adults to choose to do what they do recreationally, but with young people — where the brain is developing in really critical ways — it’s really important to try to understand what’s going on there when they use cannabis.

“Millions of them will end up not developing anything really major, but for those who do develop a psychosis it’s very tragic.

“I think it’s really important to understand why that happens to some individuals and others can go on happily smoking for many years.”
Associate Professor Solowij said that in the last 20 years a lot more evidence about the effect of cannabis on the brain had come to light.

“In the early days we used to say ‘you’ve got to be joking cannabis is a pretty mild drug’, then the evidence built and built.

“We discovered cannabis receptors and the whole endocannabinoid system in the brain, then there were the associations with schizophrenia. With the advent of neuroimaging we have whole new tools to use.”

New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell said that it was great to have Associate Professor Solowij back in New Zealand talking about the cognitive impacts of cannabis.

“In the last 20 years, a lot has changed about our understanding of the cognitive effects of cannabis and Nadia has been at the cutting edge of the research,” Mr Bell said.

“Associate Professor Solowij will help shed more light than heat on the complex issues of cognitive impairment and relationship between cannabis use and mental health issues.”

What: 2013 International Drug Policy Symposium. Through the maze: Cannabis and Health
Where: Rendezvous Hotel, 71 Mayoral Drive, Auckland
When: 27–29 November, 2013
Info: www.drugfoundation.org.nz/cannabis-and-health

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 
Review: Howard Davis On Olivier Assayas' 'Personal Shopper'

Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper is stylish, mysterious, and very strange indeed. It manages to be both ghost story and suspense thriller, yet also a portrait of numbed loneliness and ennui , held together by an peculiarly inexpressive performance from ... More>>

Howard Davis: Never Too Old To Rock & Roll - Jethro Tull

As Greil Marcus recently observed in an NYRB review of Robbie Robertson's autobiographical Testimony, in rock and roll there is always an origin story. In the case of Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson, he claims to have been influenced by his father's big band and jazz record collections and the emergence of rock music in the 1950s, but became disenchanted with the "show biz" style of early US stars like Elvis Presley... More>>

October: Alice Cooper Returns To NZ

It was March 1977 when Alice Cooper undertook his first ever concert tour of New Zealand – and broke attendance records. 40 years on and this revered entertainer continues to surprise and exude danger at every turn, thrilling audiences globally! More>>

ALSO:

Howard Davis Review: The Contemporary Relevance Of Denial

Denial has all the hallmarks of a riveting courtroom drama. Based on a 1996 British libel case that author David Irving brought against Lipstadt, the movie has been criticized as flat and stagey, but it nonetheless conveys a visceral clarity of vision and sense of overwhelming urgency. More>>

Obituary: John Clarke Dies Aged 68

Andrew Little: “I grew up with Fred Dagg and I am devastated by John Clarke’s death. He taught us to laugh at ourselves and more importantly laugh at our politicians.” More>>

ALSO:

Howard Davis: Colin McCahon's 'on Going Out With The Tide'

Curated by Wystan Curnow and Robert Leonard, On Going Out with the Tide features major works that have been assembled from public and private collections across New Zealand and Australia. It focusses on McCahon’s evolving engagement with Māori subjects and themes, ranging from early treatments of koru imagery to later history paintings which refer to Māori prophets and investigate land-rights issues. More>>

Howard Davis: Rodger Fox Gets Out The Funk

By now a living New Zealand legend, band leader and trombonist Rodger Fox has performed with some of the biggest names in the jazz business, including Louie Bellson, Bill Reichenbach, Chuck Findley, Randy Crawford, Bobby Shew, Lanny Morgan, Bruce Paulson, Diane Schuur, Arturo Sandoval, David Clayton-Thomas, and Joe Williams, to name only a few. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Health
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news