With marijuana being legalized in more and more states, the discussion around the link between cannabis and mental health is becoming more prevalent. Strong arguments are being made that marijuana should come with a mental health warning, as it could potentially trigger or worsen the symptoms of schizophrenia in those who are already predisposed to the disease.
What is schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behaviour, disorganized speech, and a general loss of touch with reality. It often involves delusions, hallucinations, and other cognitive difficulties that can make it difficult for individuals to function normally in society.
Schizophrenia affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
People with schizophrenia experience psychosis (seeing or hearing things that are not there), delusions (false beliefs), and disorganized thinking.
Does smoking pot increase the chances of developing schizophrenia?
While the exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, there is evidence to suggest that marijuana use can trigger the onset of the disease.
A study published in The Lancet in 2019 found that people who smoke marijuana daily were almost five times more likely to develop schizophrenia than those who had never smoked pot. The risk was highest in those who started using cannabis at a young age and used it regularly.
“Daily cannabis use was associated with increased odds of psychotic disorder compared with never users, increasing to nearly five-times increased odds for daily use of high-potency types of cannabis.”The contribution of cannabis use to variation in the incidence of psychotic disorder across Europe (EU-GEI): a multicentre case-control study
Yes, you understood that correctly – if cannabis were no longer available, there would be over 30% less new cases of schizophrenia in London annually, and eliminating marijuana in Amsterdam would cut the number of new cases of schizophrenia in the city by half.
Should pot come with a health warning?
Amsterdam is well known for its “coffee shops” where marijuana is sold and consumed legally. Clearly these “entertainment venues” should come with a massive mental health warning, as opposed to presenting pot as something fun to be enjoyed while sipping on a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Based on this it would appear that the attempts of doctors in California to have a warning placed on all products that contain weed are not misguided, and may in fact help to reduce the number of people suffering from this debilitating mental illness.
Starting use at an early age and smoking high-potency cannabis daily were the strongest risk factors for developing psychotic disorder.
So if you or someone you know is thinking about using cannabis, be aware of the risks, especially relating to serious (and incurable) mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. It is always best to consult with a doctor or mental health professional before using any substance, as they can help you to understand the risks and benefits involved.
What does this mean?
In light of these findings, it is clear that more research needs to be done on the link between cannabis and mental health, specifically schizophrenia.
Until then, it might be wise to err on the side of caution and avoid smoking pot, especially if you have a family history of mental illness. It is also important to be aware of the potential risks associated with marijuana, so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to use it.
Marijuana is a drug and, like all drugs, it comes with risks and side effects. These findings suggest that cannabis use may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia.
If you are considering using pot, be sure to weigh the risks and benefits carefully. And, as always, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please reach out for help. The sooner they get help, the better.