NS Researcher Connecting Cannabis and Mental Health

Nova Scotia researchers are investigating the impact cannabis consumption has on developing brains. With some of the highest reported rates of cannabis use among youth in the country, this research is needed to help Nova Scotia’s young adults make informed decisions.

Leading the study is Dr. Phil Tibbo, Professor of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University and Director of the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program. Working with researchers at the University of Western Ontario, Dr. Tibbo and team are conducting one of the first in-depth examinations of the effects of regular cannabis use on brain health in healthy youth and young adults and those in early phase psychosis. 

“We know that within our early intervention services for psychosis, cannabis use is fairly high,” says Tibbo. “Unfortunately, what we see is that those individuals who are diagnosed (with psychosis) and continue with cannabis use have some very significant negative outcomes.” 

In addition to supporting individuals struggling with mental illness, the results of Tibbo’s research could have important implications for teens and young adults in general. 

“Though this research is focused on psychosis, we’re also looking at a healthy control group,” he explains. “This will allow us to ask does cannabis use, and degrees of cannabis use, have an effect on brain development in the young adult population?” 

Funding for the project was provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and Research Nova Scotia in 2018. Using MRI techniques, the dual-site study was designed to observe participants’ brain white matter over a one-year period. Last year, participant recruitment paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team has resumed work on the project and is actively recruiting healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-35 who consume cannabis.

For more information on how to participate, email: psychosis.research@nshealth.ca