One Southern California university was recently awarded with a $9 million dollar grant to study cannabis’ impact on teenage brains.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded University of California, Irvine’s School of Medicine a four-year grant to study whether tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) exposure causes lasting changes in endocannabinoid (ECB) signaling, synaptic plasticity and behavior. ECBs are involved in physiological and psychological processes such as emotions and memory. “The ECB system is the main point of entry of THC into the brain. Now that cannabis is legal in many states, it’s very important to understand whether excessive activation of this signaling system during adolescence can produce alterations in cognition and motivated behavior that last into adulthood,” stated Dr. Daniele Piomelli, director of the newly created UCI Center for the Study of Cannabis.
The study will specifically research the long-term effects of THC on brain functions and behavior, and the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of THC.
UCI’s Center for the Study of Cannabis is part of the NIDA’s Centers of Excellence program, which targets physicians-in-training and creates centers to identify drug addiction knowledge gaps, research and educate on best practices. “Studies suggest that adolescents who are exposed to cannabis are at risk for development of various neuropsychiatric disorders later in life, but there is much research still needed,” said Piomelli. “It is especially important to understand at what times in life and at what dosages cannabis may become dangerous, and to develop preventive and therapeutic strategies to manage this risk.”
Piomelli hopes that this study will allow the university and cannabis researchers everywhere better understand the “benefits and dangers” of cannabis. Hopefully, if the results are clear, this information could be sued as the foundation for regulations and legislation regarding both medical and recreational cannabis. Until then, many other studies are being conducted to further clarify cannabis’ properties.