Cannabis is one of the most widely used illicit drugs among adolescents, and most users firstEXPERIMENT with it in adolescence. Adolescence is a critical phase for brain development, characterized by neuronal maturation and rearrangement processes, such as myelination, synaptic pruning and dendritic plasticity. The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in fundamental brain developmental processes such as neuronal cell proliferation, migration and differentiation. Therefore changes in endocannabinoid activity during this specific developmental phase, induced by the psychoactive component of marijuana, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, might lead to subtle but lasting neurobiological changes that can affect brain functions and behaviour. In this review, we outline recent research into the endocannabinoid system focusing on the relationships between adolescent exposure to cannabinoids and increased risk for certain neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia, as highlighted by both human and animal studies. Particular emphasis will be given to the possible mechanisms by which adolescent cannabis consumption could render a person more susceptible to developing psychoses such as schizophrenia.
This article is part of a themed issue on Cannabinoids. To view the editorial for this themed issue visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.00831.x
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