cannabis and schizophrenia
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Cannabis and Schizophrenia, Cure or Cause?

Growing up you may have heard about the guy in the neighbourhood who hears voices in his head. And you also know that his disease — schizophrenia (according to DARE, anyways) was probably the result of the innumerable joints he used to take as a youngster.

Well, one section of medical scientists has dared to differ. They take the stance that certain cannabis-related compounds, especially CBD, might help undo some of the damages caused by THC, which is indeed psychoactive. This article gets you updated on the same and presents the viewpoints of both pro and anti-cannabis advocates. Let’s start with the conventional view:

There is an Established Link Between Cannabis and Schizophrenia — Cause

As per the findings of an analysis of many individual studies, cannabis is the most typical substance consumed by schizophrenia patients. Further, youngsters are more likely to consume cannabis and not alcohol. However, the link confounds experts. A section of experts holds that the temporary relief from the symptoms of the illness, while others suspect there’s more to it.

However, schizophrenia and cannabis share a relationship with psychosis. In this, please keep in mind the latter is not a mental illness in itself but rather a symptom. People with psychosis hold reality with different eyes, and it indeed is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia.

According to medical studies, the high from cannabis can sometimes induce mild psychotic symptoms, which wear off along with the high. The chief culprit behind such an effect is probably the cannabis component THC, as per experts. Keep in mind, cannabis is not the only drug that can cause psychotic symptoms. Many drugs being used therapeutically or otherwise, also carry that risk.

The symptoms in schizophrenia, however, get worse beyond the temporary high from substance use and may make hospitalization necessary. Additionally, people with specific genes like COMT and AKT1 are more vulnerable to developing schizophrenia through cannabis consumption. Besides, there is also a genetic propensity angle to the disease, and drug use, in general, may contribute to triggering an early onset of the disease.

Cannabis and Schizophrenia
Photo by Julia Avamotive, courtesy of Pexels

The Divergent Findings — Cure

On the other hand, there have been studies that suggest the opposite. According to European researchers’ work, CBD is more effective than traditional drugs in treating schizophrenia. Patrick McGorry, the winner of 2010 Australian of the Year and a leading psychiatrist and mental health professional, said that CBD could be a highly effective antipsychotic medicine. CBD appears to positively affect mental health issues like depression, psychosis and anxiety.

Current antipsychotic medications, although constantly improving, are notorious for their side effects. McGorry is studying whether CBD could help treat early signs of psychosis. As he put it to The Age back in 2014, “There’s been a lot more concern in recent times about antipsychotic medication. Obviously, it’s really effective, but the longer-term side effects are worrying people, especially weight gain and metabolic problems.” Recognizing this, an increasing number of patients are open to experimental treatments, and CBD is one of the leading alternatives.

McGorry is just one of the growing numbers of mental health experts who believe in the tremendous therapeutic potential of CBD.

The main takeaway when using any drugs is to arm yourself with knowledge. If you have an underlying mental health disorder or family history of psychosis, exercise caution when using drugs that carry the risk of potentially triggering it. Stimulants, cannabis, alcohol and hallucinogens are a few to watch out for, especially if mixed together or with other drugs.

Resources like Erowid, TripSafe and RollSafe can help you learn how to reduce harm as much as possible.