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'Skunk-Like' Cannabis Causes Brain Damage, Study

Update Date: Nov 30, 2015 05:35 PM EST

Scientists are probing the impact of cannabis on brain structure, especially the influence of "skunk-like" cannabis on the corpus callosum. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for communication between both halves of the brain.

"Skunk cannabis" are very potent objects that contain high levels of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

While science has always emphasised that cannabis use over time leads to psychosis, researchers at King's College London find that the "skunk-like" cannabis is impacting the brain's white matter fibers, especially in the corpus callosum.

"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," Paola Dazzan, senior researcher of the study said. "This reflects a sliding scale where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage will be."

With the help of Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technique, researchers probed the brain's white matter of 56 patients. They had reported their "first psychotic episode" at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM).

The information compiled then was compared to information collected from 43 "healthy" contributors nearby.

"White matter damage was significantly greater among heavy users of high potency cannabis than in occasional or low potency users, and was also independent of the presence of a psychotic disorder," said Tiago Reis Marques, co-author of the study.

As the "skunk-like" products are the most commonly used in U.K., experts fear that they could leave long-term damages on their brains.

"As we have suggested previously, when assessing cannabis use it is extremely important to gather information on how often and what type of cannabis is being used," said Dazzan. "These details can help quantify the risk of mental health problems and increase awareness on the type of damage these substances can do to the brain."

The study was published in the November 26 issue of the journal Psychological Medicine.

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