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Marijuana & Schizophrenia

Psychoactive compound in cannabis may trigger schizophrenia in susceptible individuals, says a new study from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine.

“Our research demonstrates that cannabis has a differential risk on susceptible versus non-susceptible individuals,” said Dr. Barzilay, one of the lead researchers. “In other words, young people with a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia — those who have psychiatric disorders in their families — should bear in mind that they’re playing with fire if they smoke pot during adolescence.”

The study, which used mice, found that only mice which were genetically susceptible to behavioral and biochemical brain pathologies of schizophrenia, exhibited the pathologies after being exposed to cannabis. (They used behavioral tests and neurological biochemical analyses to determine whether or not pathology existed.)

“The study was conducted on mice but it mimics a clinical picture of ‘first episode’ schizophrenia, which presents during adolescence in proximity to robust cannabis use,” said Dr. Barzilay.

Using marijuana in adolescence is associated with increased risk of psychotic disorders, according to several studies over the past several years. Some studies suggest the link is correlative in unique ways, that marijuana affects the same cognitive areas as schizophrenia, or that even that the same genes that cause schizophrenia lead to pot use.

With medical marijuana becoming legalized, is there a new risk which outweighs the popular benefits, such the monetary savings to insurance companies and individuals, due to lower prescription drug use, were estimated to be $165.2 million in 2013, (at that time when 17 states and Washington, DC had legalized medical marijuana.)

With new studies underway to examine whether marijuana can help kids with seizure disorders, adults with PTSD, and relief from a wide variety of chronic symptoms according the Tel Aviv University, the same university which published the recent study on cannabis and schizophrenia, there is obviously much more research that needs to be done, especially in the area of developing medications from isolated/extracted or synthetic cannabis compounds.

Synthetic or extracted medications that relieve pain, seizures, PTSD symptoms, and other conditions already exist and offer the best of both worlds–the ability to treat symptoms without inducing a marijuana high.

For example,  Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, for example, is just as effective as marijuana for relieving chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and anorexia. One benefit is that the other hundreds of compounds in cannabis are absent, (both harmful and possibly helpful), and the patient doesn’t get high, so is able to remain clear headed.

Nabiximols (legal in the UK) a cannabis extract used as a mouth spray to alleviate neuropathic pain, spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and most users do not have side effects that marijuana use would lead to, such as disorientation, sleepiness and so on. As with many natural substances such as medicinal herbs, the benefits may not be worth the risks which is why more study and developmental research is needed.


Marijuana & Schizophrenia

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2017). Marijuana & Schizophrenia. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Apr 2017
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