UCL News


Cannabis review from Division of Psychiatry published in Nature

28 November 2016

A systematic review on the effects of cannabis on the brain's reward system which was carried out by Dr Michael Bloomfield and colleagues from the Division of Psychiatry,features on the front cover of Nature this month.

Nature journal cover story, 'High Stakes: The effect of cannabis use on the brain's reward pathways'

Against a context of a rapidly-changing global political landscape owing to legalisation, the availability of synthetic analogues (commonly termed spice), cannavaping, and an emphasis on the purported therapeutic effects of cannabis, the researchers reviewed how THC, the main ingredient in cannabis, may affect brain function and increase the risk of mental health problems. 

Owing to the complexity of the cannabinoid-dopamine interactions that take place, there is conflicting evidence from human and animal studies concerning the effects of THC on the dopamine system. Acute THC administration causes increased dopamine release and neuron activity, whereas long-term use is associated with blunting of the dopamine system.

In the paper, Dr Bloomfield and colleagues argue that the long-term and developmental dopaminergic effects of THC must be examined, and provide a framework for future pharmacology research. The paper was featured on the cover of the 17th November 2016 edition of Nature.