It may have been legalised in many countries, but researchers warn that long-term use of cannabis could harm your brain

More and more people are using cannabis due to its legalisation in several countries, including South Africa, but it may not be good for the brain.

While it is already known that heavy, regular cannabis use increases the risk of developing mental health problems, including psychosis and schizophrenia, recent brain imaging studies have also shown that the drug impairs function in key brain regions involved in learning and memory.

Cannabis affects memory and learning function

Long-term exposure to the drug impairs the ability of brain regions involved in learning and memory to communicate with each other, suggesting that this underlies the negative effects of the drug on memory.

Researchers from Lancaster and Lisbon Universities found that mice exposed to the drug long-term had “significant… memory impairments” and could not even discriminate between a familiar and a novel object.

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Brain imaging studies show that the drug impairs function in key brain regions involved in learning and memory

“This work offers valuable new insight into the way in which long-term cannabinoid exposure negatively impacts on the brain. Understanding these mechanisms is central to understanding how long-term cannabinoid exposure increases the risk of developing mental health issues and memory problems,” said Dr Neil Dawson, the lead researcher from Lancaster University.

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“Cannabis-based therapies can be very effective at treating the symptoms of chronic diseases such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, and dramatically increase the quality of life for people living with these conditions. We need to understand the side effects that these people may experience so that we can develop new interventions to minimise these side effects.”

Source: Lancaster University via

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