Can cannabis cause schizophrenia? What about CBD and schizophrenia? The Daily Mail reports on Danish researchers claiming cannabis users are five times as likely to develop schizophrenia than someone who has never used it.
The mass medical record study looked at people diagnosed by doctors as cannabis abusers who were schizophrenics. Here the question of what is considered as cannabis “abuser” pops up. Is it someone smoking cannabis continuously all day, every day?
The conclusion drawn is that regular cannabis users (abusers now became regular users) are five times more likely to develop a serious mental disorder, as cannabis creates a greater mental health risk than any other substance.
The scientists found those who “abuse” the drug are 5.2 times more likely to develop schizophrenia as someone who has never smoked it. Cannabis is becoming more potent as very potent strains like ‘skunk’ are bred. These potent strains contain high levels of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Cannabis more likely to cause schizophrenia if high in THC
These findings compare the 5.2 times more likely incidence of schizophrenia caused by cannabis to the 1.9 for hallucinogenic drugs and 1.24 for amphetamines.
The research was presented to the International Early Psychosis Association, and it was suggested that the pleasure hormone dopamine is released by cannabis, and could trigger the disorder in susceptible people.
A selection of our products
Blame it on the naughty THC
The study follows research done last year, showing super-strength ‘skunk’ caused one in four cases of psychosis. In Wales and England more than nine million people have smoked cannabis at some point.
Cannabis activists argue the study can’t prove cannabis caused the disorder, as patients may have been schizophrenic before they used cannabis. They might have taken the drug in the early stages of illness to calm them down, they argue. In addition, researchers are only looking at people with mental health problems. How about all the people who use cannabis but never have mental health issues? Could this finding simply rest on the fact that more people in general use cannabis than other drugs?
The Copenhagen University Hospital’s Mental Health Centre researchers claim they have found evidence that implies cannabis caused schizophrenia (no reference to any substantiating study).
In another study they found pregnant woman abusing cannabis gave birth to babies who are six times more likely to become schizophrenic. From the data, they assume the physical effects of the drug was passed through the womb. Again, the research results raise questions. If schizophrenia is an inherited trait, the cause could be genetic. Most pregnant women try to stop smoking, could the fact that they continue to do so imply a mental health problem?
Dr. Carsten Hjorthøj, the study leader, said a child in the womb is not doing the drug by choice, and we know schizophrenia is a disorder of the brain. It is linked to dopamine and cannabis influences dopamine levels. The sheer volume of data mined in this study could possibly prove anything you want proven. Well, perhaps not that the Pope is not Catholic.
CBD and schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is seen as a syndrome, and is diagnosed on the basis of symptom profiles. Symptoms range from, memory loss, concept of time, lack of movement, delusion, hearing voices, seeing, smelling or tasting things that do not exist. Some of these experiences are very similar to the experience of being “high” on cannabis.
A recent study by Renard et al (2016) concluded a novel insight into the mechanisms underlying the antipsychotic properties of CBD, and found that it could be beneficial in the treatment of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
CBD might suppress dopamine production. In nature, CBD is present in the cannabis plant along with its psychoactive cousin - THC. If people use a hybrid exceptionally high in THC, the level of CBD is not significant enough to reduce the psychoactive effect, because the balance is disturbed for the purpose of getting “high”.
Hence, we seem to be hearing that THC can trigger schizophrenia, while CBD and schizophrenia have an opposite relationship – the cannabinoid might even be able to treat it.