Does Marijuana Cause Schizophrenia

Marijuana is America’s third most popular addictive substance. Only nicotine and alcohol are consumed at a higher rate. Like nicotine and alcohol use, marijuana use may also lead to serious problems beyond the risk of addiction. Current evidence shows that for certain people, one of these risks may be higher chances of developing schizophrenia.

On its own, marijuana addiction is a reason for seeking help from a treatment program. The same is true for schizophrenia. In people affected by a combination of addiction and schizophrenia, there is an even greater need for professional help. Without seeking expert care, the odds of recovering from these combined problems are slim at best.

What Is Schizophrenia

What is schizophrenia? The term describes a serious mental illness that triggers several different kinds of symptoms. These symptoms fall into three categories: positive, negative and disorganized. Positive symptoms get their name because they involve the appearance of things that are not normally present. For any given person, such things may include:

  • Vision- and hearing-related hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Delusional beliefs, thoughts and actions

Negative symptoms get their name because they indicate an absence of things that are normally present. Depending on your situation, such things may include:

  • Lack of emotional expressiveness
  • A reduced ability or desire to speak
  • An inability to make plans
  • A declining ability to feel pleasure

Disorganized symptoms can affect your thought and/or behavior. They include things such as:

  • Confused thinking
  • Illogical thinking
  • Disordered or nonsensical speech
  • Strange or abnormal behavior or body movements

Fewer than 1 in 100 people in America have schizophrenia. The illness belongs to a larger group of conditions called schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders. You may also see these conditions referred to as schizophrenia disorders.

Usual Causes of Schizophrenia Disorders

No one knows exactly why schizophrenia and its related disorders occur. Experts believe that a range of factors may be involved, including:

  • Your genetic heritage
  • The structure of your brain
  • The way in which your brain functions

Your environment may also play a significant role. Potential environmental factors include:

  • Exposure to certain viruses in the womb
  • Not getting enough nutrients before birth
  • A life lived in poverty
  • Growing up in a stress-filled household

In any given person, different factors may be at work. In this sense, there are no true usual causes of schizophrenia disorders.

Psychosis and Marijuana Usage Among Young Adults

One of the classic features of schizophrenia is psychosis. People affected by psychosis have a diminished connection to reality. This can be the result of hallucinations, delusions or a combination of the two.

Marijuana and other forms of cannabis have a known potential to trigger psychosis. In fact, there is an official name for this condition: cannabis-induced psychotic disorder, or CIPD. Doctors diagnose CIPD if you:

  • Have delusions and/or hallucinations
  • Develop these symptoms either:
    • While using cannabis
    • Soon after using cannabis
  • Are not delirious every time psychosis occurs
  • Experience significant impairment from your symptoms
  • Do not have other problems that explain your psychosis

Marijuana use is common among America’s young adults. Many people who use the drug believe it to be generally safe. However, the facts do not always support this point of view. The more you use marijuana, the higher your risks for problems. Those problems include addiction. They also include CIPD.

Marijuana’s main psychoactive ingredient is THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. In recent decades, the potency of the drug has been rising. Today, the average batch of marijuana contains far more THC than in the past. High-potency cannabis has a greater potential to trigger addiction. It also has a greater potential to triggers cases of CIPD.

Emotional Trauma

The Links Between Cannabis and Schizophrenia

Psychosis itself is not the same as schizophrenia. People with schizophrenia also have other symptoms. In addition, delusions and hallucinations have a range of potential causes other than schizophrenia. Together, these facts mean that a marijuana user may have CIPD without having a schizophrenic condition.

So, are there any actual links between marijuana and schizophrenia? Research shows that the answer to this question is yes. If you use high-potency marijuana every day, your risks for schizophrenia go up by more than 400%.

But this does not necessarily mean that marijuana use causes schizophrenia. It just means that there is some kind of association between the two. The nature of this association must be explored further to know for sure. Why? There might be other factors that help explain it.

Does Marijuana Cause Schizophrenia

Not everyone who uses marijuana is at-risk for developing schizophrenia. This means that marijuana use does not cause schizophrenia in the strictest sense. However, for certain people, consumption of the drug can lead to the onset of the illness.

There is evidence for several possible causes. The list of these potential factors includes your:

  • Family history of schizophrenia
  • Genetic background
  • Gender

The clearest evidence is for genetic influence. Research shows that a single genetic variation, in particular, may be key. The gene in question is called AKT 1.

However, even if you have the variant version of this gene, two other factors play a role. Those factors are:

  • Using marijuana every day
  • Starting use of the drug while you are a teenager

Mental Health and Marijuana as Medicine

THC is just one of the two main active ingredients in marijuana. The other is cannabidiol, or CBD. While THC has psychoactive effects and causes a “high,” CBD does not. It is the THC in marijuana that creates the risks for psychosis and schizophrenia.

On the other hand, there is evidence that CBD has a range of beneficial effects. These potential benefits include:

  • Easing symptoms of anxiety and insomnia
  • Reducing chronic pain
  • Decreasing cravings for certain addictive substances

However, when considering mental health and marijuana as medicine, caution is important. Studies showing the possible benefits of CBD do not involve the use of marijuana. Instead, they involve the use of CBD obtained from one of two sources. The first of these sources is the hemp plant, which only contains very small amounts of THC. The second source is CBD made in a laboratory. In both cases, the end product is a more or less pure form of cannabidiol.

The situation changes if you use marijuana. Marijuana users cannot separate the THC-related risks of addiction and psychosis from CBD’s potential upside. In fact, when it comes to marijuana, the negatives of THC can easily outweigh the benefits of CBD.

Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Disorders

Some people are simultaneously affected by addiction to marijuana and schizophrenia. This is possible whether or not your mental illness was caused by use of the drug. Together, addiction and schizophrenia are an example of something called dual diagnosis. This is the name for any combination of a substance use disorder and separate mental health problems.

Treatment for dual diagnosis disorders is crucial. That is true, in part, because of the health impact of dual diagnosis. If you have this condition, your addiction symptoms may grow worse. The same thing may happen to your schizophrenia symptoms. Only effective treatment for both conditions can help ensure that this does not happen.

Marijuana addiction is treated with modern psychotherapy. Specific types of therapy used for this purpose include:

  • CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy
  • MET, or motivational enhancement therapy
  • Contingency management

Schizophrenia is treated with antipsychotic medication, as well as therapy. One potential therapy option is CBT. You may also benefit from an approach called supportive psychotherapy.

Aftercare Resources for Lasting Mental Wellness

Both addiction and schizophrenia are long-term or chronic conditions. This means that you cannot cure them the way you would a short-term illness. Instead, you must continue to manage them, even after you complete your main treatment.

This means that you need some kind of continuing care or aftercare. These are names for follow-up help that keeps you in touch with important recovery resources. What are the available aftercare resources for lasting mental wellness? Possible options include:

  • Entering a less intense form of treatment
  • Joining a specialized self-help group
  • Making scheduled check-ins with your previous treatment team

These options may be used separately or in any combination.

Get Help for Addiction and Schizophrenia at Emerald Isle Recovery

Schizophrenia is one of the most severe of all mental illnesses. It has a range of potential causes. These causes are complex. They can interact in many different ways. In addition, the specific causes of the illness vary from case to case.

treatment. Emerald Isle also supports your recovery from combined addiction and mental illness symptoms.


Call us today to learn more about our many addiction and mental health options.

Marijuana is a popular drug capable of triggering addiction, especially in younger users and heavy users. Heavy use and use that begins at an early age can also increase your risks for schizophrenia. This possibility arises most often when you have certain genetic variations.

If you are affected by marijuana addiction or schizophrenia, Emerald Isle can help. We feature programs for the treatment of all types of substance problems. In addition, we feature extensive services for mental health treatment. Emerald Isle also supports your recovery from combined addiction and mental illness symptoms.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Marijuana Research Report – What Is the Scope of Marijuana Use in the United States?

American Psychiatric Association – What Is Schizophrenia?

American Psychiatric Association – DSM Library: Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health: Schizophrenia

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: Cannabis and Psychosis Through the Lens of DSM-5

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Marijuana Research Report – Is Marijuana Addictive?

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Marijuana Research Report – Is There a Link Between Marijuana Use and Psychiatric Disorders?

Cureus: The Association Between Cannabis Use and Schizophrenia – Causative or Curative? A Systematic Review

Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School: Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t

U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Dual Diagnosis

National Institute on Drug Abuse: Marijuana Research Report – Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders

Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment: Continuing Care Research – What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Going