The connection between cannabis and schizophrenia has long been subject for debate. In the 1960s and 1970s, researchers believed that use of THC could cause schizophrenia, but in later years, scientists narrowed the field a bit, suggesting that use of THC triggers symptoms only for people who have a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia.
A Single Gene: Schizophrenia and a Preference for Cannabis?
Recent research confirms the existence of a relationship between THC and schizophrenia, but suggests that the relationship is more complicated than previously believed. According to one school of thought, some people have a gene that predisposes them to both a tendency towards schizophrenia and a preference for marijuana.
While most researchers agree there is a correlation between marijuana and schizophrenia, studies indicate that marijuana users have no higher incident of schizophrenia than non-marijuana users; thus, the single gene concept may not pass the test of time.
THC Use and Changes in the Brain
Most scientists agree that use of THC creates very real changes in the brain, although nobody is sure yet exactly how. The changes may be due to a constant increase in dopamine that can increase the risk of psychotic episodes, including paranoia and delusional thinking, especially in people who are already in the early stages of schizophrenia.
Studies indicate that marijuana use is high among people with schizophrenic disorder, at an estimated 42 percent. However, scientists are uncertain whether THC causes schizophrenic symptoms, or if people with symptoms of schizophrenia tend to be heavy marijuana users because they depend on the drug to relieve uncomfortable symptoms.
Unfortunately, it appears that use of THC can amplify the symptoms of schizophrenia and make the illness more difficult to treat. The combination of schizophrenia and marijuana use results in a higher rate of hospitalization than for people with schizophrenia who don’t use the drug.
Also complicating the issue is the fact that some people with schizophrenia can react very negatively to exposure to THC, while others don’t.
While scientists attempting to unravel the complicated relationship have much work in the days ahead, there is little doubt that there is a connection between use of marijuana and schizophrenia. Rapid advanced in the field of genetics are expected to shed more light on the subject.