Marijuana legalization on the rise, an increasing number of studies are exploring the drug’s potential harms and benefits. However, a new study suggests that when it comes to brain health, alcohol is more damaging.
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Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted a review of existing imaging data that looked at the effects of alcohol and marijuana, or cannabis, on the brain.
Their findings linked alcohol consumption with long-term changes to the structure of white matter and gray matter in the brain.
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The use of marijuana, however, seemed to have no significant long-term effects on brain structure.
Study leader Rachel Thayer, of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Addiction.
It is estimated that around 22.2 million people in the United States have used marijuana in the past month, making it “the most commonly used illicit drug” in the country.
Across the U.S., however, it is increasingly becoming legalized for both medicinal and recreational purposes. As a result of this changing legislation, researchers have been trying to find out more about how marijuana may benefit health, as well as the damage that it could cause.
Last year, for example, on a study linking marijuana use to a greater risk of psychosis in teenagers, while another study claimed that the drug is “worse than cigarettes” for cardiovascular health.
On the other side of the coin, researchers have found that cannabinoids — which are the active compounds in marijuana — could help to prevent migraine, and a more recent study linked marijuana use to an increased sex drive.
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Usual triggers of Schizophrenia
The exact causes of schizophrenia are unknown. Research suggests a combination of physical, genetic, psychological and environmental factors can make a person prone to developing the condition.
Some people may be prone to schizophrenia, and a stressful or emotional life event might trigger a psychotic episode. However, it’s not known why some people develop symptoms while others don’t.
Things that increase the chances of schizophrenia developing include:Genetics
Schizophrenia tends to run in families, but no single gene is proved to be responsible. It’s more likely that different combinations of genes make people more vulnerable to the condition. However, having these genes doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop schizophrenia.
Evidence that the disorder is partly inherited comes from studies of twins. Identical twins share the same genes. If one twin develops schizophrenia, the other twin has a one in two chance of developing it, too. This is true even if they’re raised separately unlike in the case of unidentical twins.
While this is higher than in the general population, where the chance is about 1 in 100, it suggests genes aren’t the only factor influencing the development of schizophrenia.
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Studies of people with schizophrenia have shown there are subtle differences in the structure of their brains. These changes aren’t seen in everyone with schizophrenia and can occur in people who don’t have a mental illness. But they suggest schizophrenia may partly be a disorder of the brain.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between brain cells. There is a connection between neurotransmitters and schizophrenia because drugs that alter the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are known to relieve some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Research suggests schizophrenia may be caused by a change in the level of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and serotonin. Some studies indicate an imbalance between the two may be the basis of the problem. Others have found a change in the body’s sensitivity to the neurotransmitters is part of the cause of schizophrenia.
Pregnancy and birth complications
Research has shown people who develop schizophrenia are more likely to have experienced complications before and during their birth, such as: low birth weight, premature labor, lack of oxygen (asphyxia) during birth
Triggers are things that can cause schizophrenia to develop in people who are at risk. The main psychological triggers of schizophrenia are stressful life events, such as: bereavement, losing your job or home, divorce, end of a relationship, physical, sexual or emotional abuse
These kinds of experiences, although stressful, don’t cause schizophrenia. However, they can trigger its development in someone already vulnerable to it.
Drugs don’t directly cause schizophrenia, but studies have shown drug misuse increases the risk of developing schizophrenia or a similar illness. Certain drugs, particularly cannabis , cocaine, LSD or amphetamines, may trigger symptoms of schizophrenia in people who are susceptible.
Three major studies have shown teenagers under 15 who use cannabis regularly, especially “skunk” and other more potent forms of the drug, are up to four times more likely to develop schizophrenia by the age of 26.
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Quick rise in young people with Type 2 diabetes is alarming
Hundreds of young people are being treated for Type 2 diabetes, a 41% rise in just four years.
The condition occurs when the body cannot make enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
It is often linked to obesity and is most commonly seen in adults, where it can lead to a range of health problems such as heart disease and strokes.
Some 715 people under the age of 25 received treatment for the disease in England and Wales during 2016/17 and 78.6% of them were obese.
The number of cases is up from the 507 registered in 2013/14, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
But the true number may be much higher, as the RCPCH recorded only those young people being treated in paediatric units, not by a GP.
Professor Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, said: “A rise in Type 2 diabetes of this magnitude is alarming and shows that the childhood obesity epidemic is starting to bite.
“It’s also concerning that we might not be seeing the full picture.”
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, said more support was needed, especially for obese children and ethnic minorities, as almost half of those treated in 2016/17 were black or Asian.
Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “These figures are a sad indictment of how we have collectively failed as a society to tackle childhood obesity, one of the biggest health challenges we face.”
She called for “urgent action”, saying: “Type 2 diabetes can be a lifelong debilitating illness and these figures will only multiply if we delay.