Addiction and psychiatric disorders share common structural abnormalities
The canadian Press
MONTREAL – found in the brain of people suffering from an addiction structural abnormalities that are similar to, and sometimes even superior, to those seen in the brains of people with certain psychiatric disorders, reveals a study conducted by researchers from CHU Sainte-Justine.
In comparing patients addicted to alcohol and cannabis to topics that are not dependent of the same age and sex, the professor Patricia Conrod and the master’s student Xavier Navarri observed a reduction in brain volumes in regions characteristics of patients with disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity.
These results are consistent with studies conducted previously on the structural abnormalities related to alcohol consumption and cannabis use among the adult.
“We have noticed several effects in the brain in the regions (…) that are involved in functions that are very fundamental to the functioning of the brain, in the regulation of stress, the regulation of emotions, the capacity to respond to the reward, but also in the regions of the brain involved in planning, executive functioning, cognitive control and the ability to regulate behavior in response to emotions”, said the professor, Conrod, the department of psychiatry and addiction, University of Montreal.
The study, however, does not determine whether the consumption of alcohol or of cannabis is responsible for these structural abnormalities, or if the presence of these defects makes them more vulnerable to addiction.
“This study is not able to differentiate between (chicken and egg), has said Ms. Conrod. It is clear that we need further studies (…) to be able to distinguish between the neurocognitive problems that are related to the consumption of one way causal, or which may be affected by the consumption. (…) It is probably a combination of the two effects.”
The study compared data from 435 participants with disorders related to the consumption of alcohol with a control group of 363 people, and 200 participants reporting a high consumption of cannabis or a disorder of consumption of cannabis to a control group of 247 people and non-consumptive.
A meta-analysis was carried out to observe the brain abnormalities are common in patients dependent on alcohol and cannabis.
The authors warn that the conclusions of studies that compare the major consumer of cannabis to non-consumers demonstrate a high degree of heterogeneity, suggesting significant individual variations between the misuse of cannabis and the structure of the brain.
“It may be connected to the fact that at this moment it is difficult to determine an addiction to cannabis, because consumers are more consumers on a regular basis; the profile is a little different than with alcohol,” said professor Conrod.
The researchers found a reduction of cortical thickness in subjects addicted to alcohol and cannabis, as well as in those with major depressive disorder. The reduction in alcoholic patients has also been observed in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
The reduction in brain volumes in some regions was comparable for disorders of cannabis use, alcoholism, and other psychiatric disorders.
The results of this study, ” adds Ms. Conrod, demonstrate that people who are struggling with addiction need a support that will go further than the sole purpose of their consumption.
“There is definitely a need among people who suffer from addiction or abuse of alcohol for services, neurocognitive rehabilitation, and not only a service that helps them to stop eating, she said.
“There are certainly some interventions neuropsychological that can help people to recover their operation, or at the very least to recover a little more quickly and easily. These types of services are not yet offered a systematic and equal.”
The study was published online by the medical journal Human Brain Mapping.