[Here's another article on the marijuana debate. This one, though,
goes beyond emotionalism and faces the cold, hard, power fact that
cannabis has certain irreversible, long term effects that, quite
distinct from alcohal, damage the brain on the molecular, genetic
level. To anyone acquanted with hebephrenic schizophrenia, this "new"
evidence should come as no new surprising revelation; everyone has
seen the symptoms of marijuana abuse: deterioration of the
personality, disorganized thoughts, sense-less laughter, lack of
motivation, leading to the erosion of the ego and the collapse of the
will. Not in my country!]
Gene Glitches Link Pot with Schizophrenia
UPI Science News
From the Science & Technology Desk
Published 7/1/2002 5:06 PM
OKAYAMA, Japan, July 1 (UPI) -- Genetic anomalies tied with marijuana-
activated brain chemicals appear linked to schizophrenia, Japanese
"This result provides genetic evidence that marijuana use can result
in schizophrenia or a significantly increased risk of schizophrenia,"
lead researcher Hiroshi Ujike, a clinical psychiatrist at Okayama
University, told United Press International.
Schizophrenia is one of the greatest mental health challenges in the
world, affecting roughly one of every 100 people and filling about a
quarter of all hospital beds in the United States. For years,
clinical scientists have known that abusing marijuana, also known as
cannabis, can trigger hallucinations and delusions similar to
symptoms often found in schizophrenia. Prior studies also show that
cannabis used before age 18 raises the risk of schizophrenia six-fold.
The hallucinogenic properties of marijuana, the researchers
explained, are linked to a biochemical found abundantly in the brain.
The chemical, called cannabinoid receptor protein, studs the surfaces
of brain cells and latches onto the active chemical within marijuana
known as THC.
"These sites are where marijuana acts on the brain," Ujike said.
Ujike and his team examined the gene for the marijuana receptor in
121 Japanese patients with schizophrenia and an average age of 44.
When they compared this gene in schizophrenics with the same gene in
148 normal men and woman of the same average age, they found distinct
abnormalities in DNA sequences called nucleotides among the
schizophrenics. Some of their nucleotides in the marijuana receptor
gene appeared significantly more often than normal while others
appeared less frequency.
"This finding is the first to report a potential abnormality of the
cannabinoid system in schizophrenia," said clinical neuroscientist
Carol Tamminga at the University of Maryland in College Park. "The
importance of a finding here cannot be overstated, in that it would
form a tissue target for drug development and allow targeted
treatments to emerge for the illness."
It appears malfunctions in the brain's marijuana-linked circuitry may
make one vulnerable to schizophrenia, Ujike said. This holds
especially true for a condition called hebephrenic schizophrenia,
which is marked by deterioration of personality, senseless laughter,
disorganized thought and lack of motivation. These symptoms are
similar to psychotic behavior sometimes triggered by severe cannabis
abuse, which could mean the marijuana receptors in schizophrenics are
far more active than they should be.
Ujike stressed there is no evidence yet these genetic abnormalities
can affect how the marijuana receptor actually acts in the brain. "We
would also like to replicate our findings with different ethnic
populations and more people," he added.
The researchers described their findings in the scientific journal
(Reported by Charles Choi, UPI Science News, in New York)
Copyright © 2002 United Press International