The concept of treating schizophrenia with medical marijuana is a fairly new one. The legal status of marijuana, the lack of research on its beneficial effects, and the belief that it may contribute to mental disorders have all made the concept of using it as a treatment hard to fathom. However, as more research is conducted, certain compounds in marijuana are being shown to have a positive impact on even the most severe mental health disorders, including schizophrenia. Understanding how marijuana can affect mental health, what we know about its correlation with schizophrenia, and why people are using it as a treatment will help you understand how you can treat schizophrenia with medical marijuana.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic mental disorder, which requires medical treatment to reduce the impact of symptoms on daily life. Unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia, so traditional treatments are symptomatic or designed to treat symptoms of the disorder. According to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia affects thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It causes psychosis, which makes it difficult to distinguish reality from thoughts. This can have a serious, debilitating effect on those with the condition, which can start as early as young adulthood or in some cases childhood.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include:
- Agitated or abnormal body movements
- Dysfunctional thinking
- Reduction in emotional response
- Reduced ability to feel pleasure or happiness
- Lack of motivation or energy
- Poor cognitive function
- Trouble focusing or paying attention
- Memory issues
Schizophrenia affects approximately 1.1% of the worldwide population, which equates to about 3.5 million people in the United States. With the severity of symptoms, many with the disorder have trouble leading a normal life. Current treatment methods cause side effects or lack effectiveness for many patients, leaving them wondering if using weed for schizophrenia could be a better therapy option.
Medical Marijuana and Mental Disorders
Medical marijuana has been widely recognized as a potential treatment for a variety of conditions. Research on its use for treating mental disorders, pain, certain cancers, inappetence, nausea, and side effects of other medical treatments has been documented and reported, although legal stipulations have made conducting research difficult. This has limited the amount of research, leaving a lot of opportunity for future information to be uncovered. Although more needs to be known, what we do know is that chemical compounds in cannabis called cannabinoids work within the body and are able to interact with the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system in the body regulates mood, memory, appetite, and pain. The cannabinoids in marijuana interact directly with this system, making the link between marijuana and treating mood or memory-related condition obvious.
From research studies and the testimonials of recreational users, the link between cannabis and mental health has slowly come to light. Compounds in marijuana have shown some success in treating several types of mental disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Weed’s ability to improve mood, increase pleasure, reduce pain, and enhance cognitive ability give it a powerful edge in treating mental disorders. Although marijuana and mental disorder have not always had a positive correlation, as more is being uncovered about the way cannabinoids work within the body it has become clear that some types of cannabis have shown a clear ability to improve mental health.
Cannabis and Schizophrenia – How are they Linked?
Plenty of conflicting research exists on the link between marijuana and schizophrenia. Older reports linked cannabis use as a cause of psychosis while other research indicates it is an effective potential cure. This leaves many wondering which is correct. Is there such a thing as cannabis induced schizophrenia disorder or does marijuana help treat schizophrenia? To answer this question, it is important to look at the research on both sides.
Cannabis and Schizophrenia Treatment:
- According to research published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, a study found that a compound in cannabis known as Cannabidiol or CBD provided superior results in treating symptoms of schizophrenia. It showed a similar connection between CBD and improvements in cognitive performance for the schizophrenic participants in the study.
- A similar German study reported on in Time Magazine also showed that CBD caused improvements in symptoms for schizophrenic patients, similar to that of an antipsychotic drug.
- Even better, CBD’s antipsychotic, anxiety-reducing effects helped patients without the negative side effects associated with many common antipsychotic medications.
- A Yale University researcher quoted in the Time’s article indicated that CBD had fewer side effects and worked better on the hardest to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, making it a promising treatment option.
Cannabis Induced Schizophrenia Disorder:
- Some research has shown a correlation between individuals developing schizophrenia and use of cannabis. The most cited study to make this claim was conducted in New Zealand. Their research showed children who had used marijuana by the age of 15 were three times more likely to develop schizophrenia.
- This link between marijuana and schizophrenia development and the concept of a marijuana mental disorder or marijuana psychosis is commonly cited in opposition to the use of medical marijuana.
- Additional research since that early study has shown that the connection between marijuana and mental disorder may have been misunderstood. It indicated that cannabis is not necessarily to blame for causing schizophrenia, rather those that are psychologically vulnerable tend to turn to weed in their youth.
- A report shared in late 2016 by Science Daily indicated that people who have a greater risk of developing schizophrenia are more likely to try cannabis, which explains the earlier link between weed and schizophrenia.
Using Weed for Schizophrenia Treatment
Using certain compounds in marijuana as a schizophrenia treatment has shown very promising results. CBD’s ability to have an equally positive effect on schizophrenia symptoms as its prescription antipsychotic counterparts has made it clear that it is an effective treatment. When considering weed and schizophrenia treatment, it is important to clearly understand the potential risks and how to mitigate them. CBD has been shown to be highly effective, while THC, another common compound, may cause effects similar to psychosis. This means it is important to choose a low-THC strain, a CBD oil, or look for some of the available medical treatments that use synthetic CBD. Dosing and effectiveness will vary from person to person, and it may require some trial and error in the early treatment phase.
Why are People Turning to Marijuana to Treat Schizophrenia?
Even though the research into medical marijuana and mental disorders still needs more focus to provide a definitive answer, many individuals are choosing to cannabis to treat their schizophrenia symptoms. There are a handful of reasons that schizophrenics are choosing cannabis. When it comes to marijuana and treating schizophrenia, the positive effects on schizophrenic symptoms are more than enough for those with the condition to consider this alternative treatment method. While schizophrenia causes issues with pleasure response, cognition, agitation, and mood, compounds in marijuana can increase pleasure, improve cognition, reduce agitation and provide a calming effect, and boost mood. The symptom improvements found from CBD have proven equally effective to other traditional treatments for many with schizophrenia.
Another major reason individuals with schizophrenic disorders are choosing cannabis is because it does not cause the negative side effects associated with the antipsychotic medications generally prescribed to treat the condition. The side effects of these drugs can be potentially devastating. Negative effects associated with prescription antipsychotics include permanent movement disorders like twitching or spasms, weight gain, reduction in motivation, reduction in ability to experience pleasure, and increased risk of diabetes. As you can see, these medications can actually worsen or cause schizophrenic symptoms even while treating others. Cannabis does not present the same issue when used as a treatment, making it ideal for some individuals.
Another benefit is that marijuana can be used in conjunction with other treatment methods because it works differently within the body. The cannabinoids found in weed interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, allowing it to trigger certain responses in the brain and work naturally to reduce symptoms and improve overall mental condition. Other benefits include, ease of use and ability to self-regulate dosing depending on current symptom status. The potential risk of marijuana mental disorder has not dissuaded those who already have schizophrenia. The use of low-THC cannabis and the reduction of schizophrenia symptoms along with the lack of severe side effects and other benefits has shown enough promise for an increasing number of patients.
Recent research has shown it is possible to treat some of the most severe symptoms of schizophrenia with medical marijuana. This treatment option holds promise for many who find antipsychotic medications to be ineffective or are concerned with the serious side effects associated with these drugs. Using a high-CBD version of medical marijuana could provide an effective treatment alternative for some individuals, which is why many schizophrenics are turning to medical cannabis as a schizophrenia treatment.
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