marijuana and schizophrenia

Marijuana Cause Schizophrenia? Here’s What We Know

As CBD grows in popularity, concerns have been raised over its potential side-effects. Health experts and policy-makers cite one major danger to advocate curbs around CBD or medical marijuana: it causes schizophrenia. They say the heavy use of cannabis or allied products can lead to psychosis in people, especially the younger lot. Young people are more drawn towards experimenting with cannabis and tend to go for products containing higher THC content, thereby putting them at risk. However, many research organizations’ supporters of the cannabis industry differ on this, terming such claims to be lofty and overblown.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious psychotic disorder that can be self-destructive for some people as it affects their normal lives. The schizophrenic episodes either come in phases or regularly. They mainly cause the inability to think properly, unusual behavior, delusions, difficulty communicating properly, and hallucination. Those who have schizophrenia may have to undergo proper treatment that may last years. Anecdotal experiences suggest medical marijuana has properties to fix the psychotic disorder problem, but critics warn against it. They say rather than fixing the problem; cannabis may deteriorate the mental health condition by making people more susceptible to schizophrenia. The link revealed no relation between marijuana consumption and schizophrenia. It is mainly caused by genetic problems, brain development issues at an early age, and complications during pregnancy or birth.

Medical marijuana and high-potency cannabis

Medical marijuana has emerged as a thriving industry in recent years. As the federal government in the US softens its stance around marijuana in general, the big offline, as well as the online cannabis industry, has cropped up in many states. However, the Food and Drug Administration is yet to frame policies around its commercial use. Different state laws also change the business dynamics for people associated with this industry. Medical marijuana also does not fall in the general definition of marijuana, which is associated with several health risks. Medical marijuana is the one that has low THC content, which is responsible for intoxication. CBD or cannabidiol — derived from a cannabis family plant called hemp — is healthy as it has no side-effects and possesses several medicinal properties.

What does science say on cannabis causing schizophrenia?

Science is clear on the issue — excess of anything isn’t good for human health. If the argument is that heavy dosage of marijuana or cannabis leads to psychosis, it’s also true for other legal and widely available consumables like cigarettes that contain nicotine, alcohol, products containing caffeine, and other stimulants too. Moreover, you can buy anywhere. Supporters of the cannabis industry say any psychosis arising out of cannabis use does not last forever. Mostly, it’s temporary. All your random thoughts, disoriented behavior last for a certain period before it fades away. On the other hand, schizophrenia, a serious condition caused by years of psychotic behavior and associated with a genetic history of mental health issues may deliberate withdrawal from society.

Is marijuana use associated with schizophrenia?

So far, opinions divide on this issue. Some people have outrightly rejected these claims while advocating for controlled cannabis usage to get the most benefit. Others say there may be some kind of link between the two. Even researchers in the field have not been able to reach a common conclusion. Their conclusions are polarizing. They have been able to establish the link between regular overuse of cannabis and psychosis but are unable to identify whether the habit or psychosis is developed first or it’s the cannabis use altogether. 

Numerous studies have been done on people who remain socially excluded from an early age and develop random and unusual fears during their childhood. They have no link with cannabis at that stage in life. Experts also can’t find the direct correlation between marijuana (CBD) use and schizophrenia in many of those who consume cannabis, drink alcohol, and consume nicotine products. This makes it difficult for experts to find the link between cannabis and schizophrenia.

What’s the biology behind cannabis and psychotic problems?

There’s circumstantial evidence that suggests biologically it’s possible. Most of such psychotic disorders emerge during adulthood when our brain attains full development. During the teenage years, the brain cuts off all the unnecessary links between brain cells. Most of this activity happens in the mind’s prefrontal cortex area, which is behind the forehead. The area is responsible for all the planning and thinking in one’s mind. This is where CB1 receptors that carry out pruning of redundant brain cell links are engaged with cannabis compounds. Due to this engagement with a gene variant, the process of pruning gets disturbed, which can cause psychotic behavior or schizophrenia, suggest experts. They, however, cautions against overuse of cannabis only.

The family connection 

Most experts seem to agree that psychotic conditions have a direct correlation with familial history. Regardless of their encounter with cannabis, people will be vulnerable to schizophrenia if they have a genetic history of psychotic disorders. When coming in contact with cannabis, this particular lot of people tends to react differently than those without any psychotic history. The overall experience of ‘high’ and the effect on their mental state is different and more severe for them. 

Studies have also shown that the familial risk of psychotic disorders (inc. schizophrenia) outweighs the effects of regular and excessive marijuana consumption. A Harvard Medical School study seems to dwell on this topic. A study conducted by Ashley C Proal and Dr. Lynn E DeLisi on different people to find the link. The users comprised – regular marijuana users with a family history of schizophrenia and without such history and non-cannabis users with or without any genetic history of psychotic disorders.

The study found that there was little connection to cannabis use when it came to schizophrenia. Those who had family history were likely to experience more such mental disorders regardless of their use of cannabis. This study has settled the debate that cannabis alone is not responsible for causing mental health disorders. More research is being done to understand the early-age impacts on the mind due to genetic history. In essence, it can be said that the overuse of high-potency cannabis is bad for health, especially for young people who have a history of genetic psychotic disorders. However, regulated and controlled use may not negatively affect one’s mental health, say experts. It may solve the problem at an early stage.

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