There has been a lot of research into the link between schizophrenia, or psychosis more generally, and marijuana use. A statistical link has long been evident. By some estimates, about half of people diagnosed with schizophrenia struggle with addiction too. Two recent studies shed some light on the complicated relationship between marijuana and schizophrenia. The first is a study by a Bristol University team led by Dr. Suzi Gage. They looked for a genetic link between schizophrenia and marijuana use and found that the link goes both ways. Marijuana use increases your chances of developing schizophrenia and also a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia increases your chances of using marijuana. In fact, the latter was the stronger result. They aren’t sure exactly why this happens. The intuitive explanation is that people with a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia may be self-medicating, but there may be other factors involved. For example, they may react differently to the drug to other people without such a predisposition. Another study, this one from Tel Aviv University in Israel, examined whether marijuana can trigger schizophrenia in mice. They bred mice with a genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia and tested four groups: mice with the vulnerability that were given THC, mice with the vulnerability that weren’t given THC, mice without the vulnerability that were given THC, and mice without the vulnerability that weren’t given THC. They administered the drug during the mouse equivalent of adolescence, the time when schizophrenic symptoms typically first appear. The study found that THC caused schizophrenia only in the mice with the genetic predisposition, indicating that marijuana is likely only a precipitating factor. The team also studied a possible mechanism by which marijuana might increase risk of schizophrenia in people genetically predisposed to it. There is a protein in the brain called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF that protects and grows brain cells. In normal brains, this protects neurons in the hippocampus when exposed to THC, but BDNF seems to be deficient in the hippocampus of brains genetically predisposed to schizophrenia. The team found that by replacing BDNF in the vulnerable mice they were able to prevent the onset of symptoms after they were exposed to THC. There are ways to increase BDNF in humans, such as SSRIs antidepressants and exercise, but these haven’t been studied as preventive measures. You can generally tell if you have a genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia if you have a relative with the condition, especially if that relative is a parent or sibling. If you do have a genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia, using marijuana or other drugs is akin to lighting a fuse. It won’t explode every time, but there’s not point in taking the risk.
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Bristol study: https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/122D651C3670683DAEDDA33997417105/S0033291716003172a.pdf/div-class-title-assessing-causality-in-associations-between-cannabis-use-and-schizophrenia-risk-a-two-sample-mendelian-randomization-study-div.pdf
Tel Aviv study: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317170.php