Cannabis sativa neurotoxicity and impacts on the brain tissue morphology

Bárbara da Silva Santos, Marcelo Coertjens


In order to understand psychological and behavioral impact among Cannabis sativa users, experiments have been developed by analyzing the relationship between the intensity of the use with injury and inflammation biomarkers. Therefore, this paper aimed to carry out a literature review, relating biochemical markers of neurotoxicity and their impact on morphology of brain tissue in Cannabis sativa users, during the exposure to Δ9-THC intravenously and in in vitro studies. This is a narrative review whose bibliographic research was managed in PubMed, SciELO and Google Scholar databases, using the following terms as inclusion criterion: “Cannabis sativa”, “marijuana”, “maconha”, “Δ9-THC”, “neurotrophins”, “neurotrofinas”, “prostaglandins”, “prostaglandinas”, “BDNF” and “NGF”. Thereby, 40 articles were selected to integrate the present review, dated from 1987 to 2013. The period of this literature review was from August 2011 to May 2013. It was possible to identify the types and the magnitude of morphological and biochemical changes resulting from the Cannabis sativa use or exposure to Δ9-THC. In general, a reduction was found in gray and white brain mass, in density of hippocampus, in the volume of nerve cells, among others. We also observed changes in serum levels of neurotrophins and in prostaglandin biosynthesis, in accordance with methodology used or the evaluated area. These findings could be related to behavioral changes observed in Cannabis sativa users, clarifying, for instance, many psychological symptoms reported in literature.


Cannabis sativa; tetrahydrocannabinol; brain injuries; nerve growth factors; prostaglandins


United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. World drug report. Geneva: United Nations Publications; 2013.

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