Cannabis exposure during adolescence: A uniquely sensitive period for neurobiological effects

Int Rev Neurobiol. 2022:161:95-120. doi: 10.1016/bs.irn.2021.07.002. Epub 2021 Jul 27.


Adolescence is a crucial developmental period where neural circuits are refined and the brain is especially vulnerable to external insults. The endocannabinoid (eCB) system undergoes changes during adolescence which affect the way in which it modulates the development of other systems, in particular dopamine circuits, which show protracted development into adolescence. Given the rise of cannabis use by adolescents and young people, as well as variants containing increasingly higher concentrations of THC, it is now crucial to understand the unique effects of adolescent exposure to cannabis on the developing brain and it might shape future adult vulnerabilities to conditions such as psychosis, schizophrenia, addiction and more. Here we discuss the development of the eCB system across the lifespan, how CB1 receptors modulate dopamine release and potential neurobiological and behavioral effects of adolescent THC exposure on the developing brain such as alterations in excitatory/inhibitory balance during this developmental period.

Keywords: Adolescence; CB1; Cannabis; Dopamine; Endocannabinoids; Psychosis; Reward; Schizophrenia; THC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain* / drug effects
  • Brain* / growth & development
  • Brain* / physiopathology
  • Cannabis* / toxicity
  • Humans