This article is part of the Research Topic Clearing the smokescreen: The current evidence on cannabis use


Front. Psychiatry, 14 October 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00129

Cannabis use during adolescent development: susceptibility to psychiatric illness

  • 1Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, Friedman Brain Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA
  • 3James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA

Cannabis use is increasingly pervasive among adolescents today, even more common than cigarette smoking. The evolving policy surrounding the legalization of cannabis reaffirms the need to understand the relationship between cannabis exposure early in life and psychiatric illnesses. cannabis contains psychoactive components, notably Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), that interfere with the brain’s endogenous endocannabinoid system, which is critically involved in both pre- and post-natal neurodevelopment. Consequently, THC and related compounds could potentially usurp normal adolescent neurodevelopment, shifting the brain’s developmental trajectory toward a disease-vulnerable state, predisposing early cannabis users to motivational, affective, and psychotic disorders. Numerous human studies, including prospective longitudinal studies, demonstrate that early cannabis use is associated with major depressive disorder and drug addiction. A strong association between schizophrenia and cannabis use is also apparent, especially when considering genetic factors that interact with this environmental exposure. These human studies set a foundation for carefully controlled animal studies which demonstrate similar patterns following early cannabinoid exposure. Given the vulnerable nature of adolescent neurodevelopment and the persistent changes that follow early cannabis exposure, the experimental findings outlined should be carefully considered by policymakers. In order to fully address the growing issues of psychiatric illnesses and to ensure a healthy future, measures should be taken to reduce cannabis use among teens.

Keywords: cannabis, drug addiction, negative affect, schizophrenia, adolescent

Citation: Chadwick B, Miller ML and Hurd YL (2013) Cannabis use during adolescent development: susceptibility to psychiatric illness. Front. Psychiatry 4:129. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00129

Received: 02 June 2013; Accepted: 28 September 2013;
Published online: 14 October 2013.

Edited by:

Elizabeth Clare Temple, University of Ballarat, Australia

Reviewed by:

Scott E. Hemby, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, USA
Otto Lesch, Medical University of Vienna, Austria

Copyright: © 2013 Chadwick, Miller and Hurd. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Yasmin L. Hurd, Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, 1470 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10029, USA e-mail:

Benjamin Chadwick and Michael L. Miller have contributed equally to this work.

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