Today is the first day of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, and it is appropriate that we use this day to review our last community event with Ken Winters, PhD called The Developing Brain and THC. Ken’s presentation was in three parts: 1) brain development; 2) addiction and 3) cannabis/THC.
Key points included:
- The limbic system of the brain (responsible for emotions) develops early in life, while the pre-frontal region (decision-making) develops last, around age 25. This explains why so many adolescents have tried marijuana and other substances (44% of HS seniors have consumed cannabis in their lifetimes).
- Addiction is often called a pediatric disease, since adolescents and young adults are more sensitive to dopamine swings in the reward pathways of their brains.
- The risks of addiction are higher, the earlier an individual first starts to use substances.
- THC uniquely binds to cannabinoid receptors located in many different parts of the brain. this directly impacts brain development.
- The addiction rate for THC is higher than for alcohol, with 30% cited in a Hasin study for regular users.
- There is a strong relationship between cannabis use and psychiatric disorders–especially schizophrenia and psychosis.
On the last point—risk of mental illness—I’m excited to say we are hosting an expert on cannabis and psychiatric disorders on April 14, 7pm: Dr. Deepak D’Souza (Cannabis Use and Mental Health). Feel free to register here to get the Zoom link emailed to you.
Ken having written over 140 peer-review articles and clearly an expert in his field–it was great to have him share his knowledge. The link to the event replay is here, and Ken’s slide deck is here. The feedback was positive, and we look forward to our next event on marijuana in April.