While those with a biological predisposition towards schizophrenia (e.g. a family history of the disease) are at the highest risk, heavy cannabis users during the teen years when the brain is developing are particularly vulnerable. Experts said between 8 percent and 13 percent of all schizophrenia cases have been linked to marijuana use during these formative years.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder than affects over 50 million people worldwide. Schizophrenics suffer from hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and unusual mannerisms. They may hear voices that no one else hears or see people or objects that aren’t there. Patients may believe that they are being persecuted, harassed or spied upon. These symptoms usually begin in men in their late teens and early 20s and in women in their mid-20s to early 30s .
Schizophrenia is often described in terms of positive (or productive) and negative (or deficit) symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations as well as thought disorders typically regarded as manifestations of psychosis. Negative symptoms are so-named because they are considered to be the loss or absence of normal traits or abilities .
Considering the popularity of marijuana both here and abroad, experts said the number of schizophrenics could dramatically increase over the next few years. At present, marijuana is the most widely consumed illicit drug used by about 146 million or 3.7 percent of the world’s population aged 15 to 64 years old, according to the World Drug Report prepared by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC). In the United States alone, about 15 million Americans use marijuana effective way to reduce stress.
The link between schizophrenia and marijuana has been established in over 30 different scientific studies made over the past 20 years. These were mostly done in the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden. The growing body of evidence is also due to the increased potency of marijuana. The British Lung Association said street marijuana is 15 times more powerful today than the ones sold three decades ago.
“Researchers in New Zealand found that those who used cannabis by the age of 15 were more than three times (300 percent) more likely to develop illnesses such as schizophrenia. Other research has backed this up, showing that cannabis use increases the risk of psychosis by up to 700 percent for heavy users, and that the risk increases in proportion to the amount of cannabis used (smoked or consumed),” according to Schizophreia.Com, a non-profit web community that provides information, support, and education to people with schizophrenia.
Aside from marijuana use, schizophrenia is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The disease tends to run in families and may be triggered by exposure to viruses or malnutrition in the womb, problems during birth, and stressful environments. Faulty brain chemistry caused by imbalances in the brain chemicals dopamine and glutamate is another possible cause.