Does marijuana cause schizophrenia? This is the most delicate question in the cannabis world. People still think that cannabis might cause this condition because of the long period of anti-marijuana propaganda. However, recent studies reveal the opposite findings. Though it is better for schizophrenics to avoid THC, other weed compounds are proving to bring a strong antipsychotic effect. Here is what you need to know about the marijuana-schizophrenia issue.
Schizophrenia is a complex condition with a spectrum of psychotic disorders. Patients suffering from schizophrenia can have different symptoms, which often include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, speech, and behavior, lack of motivation, and social withdrawal. Moreover, the symptoms severity also varies from individual to individual.
Until now, there had been a myth that marijuana could potentially lead to schizophrenia, which discouraged many people from using the herb. Fortunately, marijuana cannot cause this disease. To develop this condition, an individual has to be predisposed to schizophrenia. Therefore, people who are susceptible to psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, should be cautious. Moreover, if you are genetically predetermined to or diagnosed with this disorder, there are some things you should know.
The reasons for schizophrenia are still unknown. Even if someone in your family suffers from this condition, there is no guarantee that you will develop the disease. Genetic mutations can trigger the disorder only if certain conditions are met.
For instance, studies that investigated identical twins revealed that if one twin had schizophrenia, there is a 40 to 50% chance that the other one would also suffer from the disorder.
The role of external factors and environment are equally important in stimulating schizophrenia. So, it is difficult to say what exactly leads to the disease, as schizophrenia is usually caused by many reasons.
However, if you are susceptible to schizophrenia because of either genetic or environmental factors, you had better not use the psychoactive compounds of marijuana to manage your condition. A study published by JAMA Psychiatry has discovered that people predisposed to schizophrenia start to experience the disease symptoms on average 2.7 years earlier if they use marijuana. Scientists suggest the reason why THC may lead to the earlier onset of the disorder lies in changes in the neurotransmitters.
Though tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is very effective in the treatment of a plethora of medical conditions, schizophrenia does not seem to be one of them.
Physicians and researchers studying schizophrenia report that patients with this disorder have poor regulation of dopamine that increases the excitability of the brain. Cannabis consumption boosts the dopamine level in the brain and might stimulate psychotic symptoms in schizophrenics. In simple words, THC might cause an excess of dopamine in the mind that is already overwrought.
There is still so little known about THC and schizophrenia that only further scientific studies will possibly throw light on this issue. However, you should not think that marijuana is not the medicine for you. Recent studies suggest that there are other compounds in cannabis that may be extremely helpful for schizophrenia patients.
Fortunately, marijuana does not consist only of THC; there are plenty of other cannabinoids that might help people with the disorder.
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds of marijuana plants that can interact with particular cell receptors in human bodies. These cell receptors create a large network known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system plays an important role in the regulation of physiological processes including sleep, mood, appetite, pleasure, and cognitive thoughts.
A study that investigated the ECS and its role in schizophrenia found that the natural level of endocannabinoids is altered in the body of schizophrenics. These irregularities may explain why some schizophrenia patients have a positive response to non-psychoactive marijuana compounds.
Schizophrenia-related studies have also revealed the effectiveness of CBD. In 2012, PubMed published a review of scientific literature focused on the evidence of CBD's antipsychotic potential investigated over a 30-year period. The review suggested that CBD could potentially work like the atypical antipsychotics available on the market.
Another study compared the effectiveness of CBD and amisulpride (Solian), the antipsychotic medicine. Schizophrenic patients reported that both substances were powerful, but CBD had fewer side effects than amisulpride.
Moreover, a study conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals discovered positive results of using CBD in treating schizophrenic patients. The company carried out a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with 88 patients at various centers in the UK.
The study findings revealed that CBD was significantly better than the placebo. The CBD treatment led to improvements in cognition in patients and reduced the severity of schizophrenia symptoms by over 20%. Almost all participants that took CBD did not experience side effects, just 5 % of those studied reported diarrhea, nausea, and headache.
Cannabis strains that may be beneficial for schizophrenia patients should be rich in CBD (at least 15-20%) and low on THC (less than 1%). High-CBD oils are the most effective way of using cannabis for patients with schizophrenia. When you are looking for high-CBD marijuana, make sure that the products you choose have been lab-tested. This will ensure that you are buying high-quality cannabis with a low THC content. Here are some of the high-CBD strains that might be effective for patients with schizophrenia:
Though most of the low-THC products are sold as hemp oil and are legally available to everyone, consult your physician before buying to achieve the best effect.