DOES MARIJUANA TRIGGER SCHIZOPHRENIA?
There has been a long debate about whether smoking marijuana can cause schizophrenia. This should be a serious question because marijuana is legal for medical use in some states. This debate partially stems from the fact that marijuana can induce short-term psychotic effects in the user. These psychotic effects include feelings of paranoia, hostility, and disorganized thinking. All of these same symptoms can also be found in an individual diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Many users find these schizophrenic-like psychotic symptoms quite distressing and scary. Some users stop their use of marijuana after encountering these symptoms, some of which have been known to lead the user to believe that they are dying or having a heart attack. Out of nine studies, one researcher is convinced that marijuana can trigger schizophrenia, Sir Robin Murray. Murray is a psychiatrist at King’s College in London and holds that marijuana is not safe to use, recreationally or medically. However, many skeptics believe that this one study in support of the claim that marijuana can trigger schizophrenia is not enough evidence.
Some argue that people who already have psychosis are predetermined to start smoking pot to ease their symptoms and help them relax. This infers that people who already have schizophrenia start smoking as a sort of self-medication and their symptoms may worsen. People like this are also prone to use other drugs that may worsen and trigger their disorder. Yet, it is also stated that people with schizophrenic genes are six times more likely to develop schizophrenia after smoking weed than people who do not have any psychotic genes.
Another aspect that makes this debate difficult is that schizophrenia onset normally occurs in the early 20s, which overlaps during a time when some adolescents start smoking pot. This overlap creates confusion in the research community when trying to decipher which came first; schizophrenia or smoking pot. The question is whether smoking pot induced schizophrenia or if schizophrenia was naturally coming on during a time when the individual decided to start using pot. Either way, however, research does indicate a correlation between pot smoking and psychosis.
Psychosis consists of two types; positive symptoms and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms result from increased brain activity and can consist of hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, disorganized thinking, and illogical speech. Negative symptoms come from decreased brain activity and include a lack of motivation, decreased the ability to come up with ideas, difficulties with emotions, and a distracted concentration. There are currently three theories based on this debate:
- Vulnerability Theory – Marijuana smoking triggers schizophrenia in individuals with a family history of schizophrenia
- Contributing Cause Theory – Marijuana is one of the many factors that can trigger schizophrenia
- Self-Medication theory – Individuals with schizophrenia use marijuana to ease the ill effects of their symptoms and this is done before they are officially diagnosed with schizophrenia
These are the reasons why marijuana is still a debated topic amongst individuals. More research needs to be conducted to determine the proper correlation between marijuana and psychosis. If you have any questions about marijuana, please consider visiting a professional treatment center. Asana Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment center that offers detox and residential rehabilitation programs. Call 949-438-4504 to learn more about their treatment services.