Clearing The Smoke: Does Cannabis Cause Schizophrenia?
The argument for the status of cannabis to remain quartered within the confines of an extremely toxic, schedule one drug based on it’s penchant to create mental instability is a favorite go-to claim made by many a prohibition supporter. Each passionate objection from most of these misinformed citizens is usually followed by an example of a certain so and so that they know, whose life has become an unrecognizable ruin of its former bright and promising self.
The battle cries against the legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana use from these hoodwinked, hard-line prohibition supporters usually regurgitate propagandist backwash theories that have been filtered down from governmental representatives through scare tactics, fear mongering and blatant deception to translate into the widely adhered, misappropriated claims that are in turn touted as gospel.
As any well-intentioned yet equally bamboozled parent would warn their child, “Stay away from the stuff, it’ll make you loopy!”
The widely-accepted notion that cannabis is a principal constituent that induces schizophrenia and depression is a doctrine espoused from the pulpits of the brow-beating prohibition faithful like a warning of hell fire. It’s an absolute risk cultivated by the Nixon led “War on Drugs” initiative that inspired the wisdom of the D.A.R.E. tutelage that many of us grew up under, which evangelised to us all this paramount caution loud and clear: if you smoke dope your head is going to crack open and your brain is going to become a fried egg in a pan.
For decades the fear of one’s brain becoming a fried egg in a skillet has seen many people treating cannabis like a toxic substance, but these days we’re being exposed to a tertiary education. We’re in an age of marijuana enlightenment and the masses are being informed that, despite almost a century of false accusation and slander, the potential held within the properties of this criminally taboo medicant present to us an exciting landscape with unforeseen horizons.
So, dank and depression, pot and schizophrenic psychosis- are the anti-drug commercials of the 80’s and 90’ depicting some poor teenager who bum-puffs a spliff and then proceeds to blows his brains out twenty minutes later in a psychotic episode accurate representations of the risks one assumes when deciding to smoke the “evil marihuana?”
Or have we had smoke blown up our asses this whole time?
While schizophrenia is still being understood by the scientific community, what little doctors do know about the illness is that it’s been observed to be a hereditary inheritance and your likelihood to be at risk for the disease can increase by up to 48% depending what members of your family have the mental disorder. For example, while parents and children share 50% of their genes, if a child has a schizophrenic parent the risk of inheriting the illness increases by only 6%. Have a brother or sister with the illness? That number jumps to 9% and rises again to 17% if you’re a fraternal twin, with the highest likelihood of contraction coming from an identical twin who also has the disorder,
With this understanding it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that mental illness finds its source primarily in this one thing: your genetic make-up. Doctors don’t think there’s just one “schizophrenia gene” either; instead they think it takes many genetic changes, or mutations, to raise your chances of carrying the mental illness. Scientific evaluation supposes that there are between 100 and 10,000 genes with brain-damaging mutations and that there are over 280 genes currently identified as having been linked to schizophrenia, but how these genes work depends on the individual.
Nicholas Wade, a science writer for The New York Times and the author of a renowned book on genetics, puts it this way: “Schizophrenia seems to be not a single disease, but the end point of 10,000 different disruptions to the delicate architecture of the human brain.” (In other words, schizophrenia is not a virus that can be caught like the flu, or the cold… or from a bong hit for that matter… there is no outside contaminant capable of setting the disease upon you.)
However, the reason pot takes the fall as the arbiter for mental instability is due to a skewed translation of information. See, researchers observe that there’s more than one thing to consider when evaluating the equation of what causes schizophrenia. Genetics and biochemical makeup aside, medical professionals observe what are known as “environmental triggers,” that are capable of awakening the dormant gene that may have handed down to you by your family tree. Among a handful of correlating elements such as the consumption of lead paint and stress, one of the triggers citied to induce schizophrenia is drug abuse.
With a triumphant “Aha!”, it is at the mention of said environmental trigger “drug abuse” that prohibition supporting politicians and tree-teetotaling totalitarians will point out the studies that seem to support their claim that those who smoke reefer seriously roulette the risk of inducing schizophrenia.
Experts like Matthew Hill, PhD of the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute, refute this blindsided dogmatism with his perspective regarding the controversial issue with this statement in a recent Nature article, “the incidence of schizophrenia has not gone up since the 1960s, when marijuana use became popular in the U.S. and Europe. In addition, countries in which a large segment of the population uses cannabis do not have higher schizophrenia rates. One of the first studies to indicate a link between marijuana and schizophrenia came out in 1987 in Sweden. It found Army soldiers who used cannabis were found to have a higher incidence of schizophrenia.” However, as Hill points out, “the study found that high doses of THC, the active ingredient, can cause acute psychosis, which then goes away. Many have mistakenly believed that the psychosis is permanent…there is little evidence of such a connection…there is actually evidence that cannabis use does not cause the mental disorder.”
A recent Harvard Study lends credence to Hill’s assertions. The study, which focused on a group of 282 controlled test subjects and compiled information of over 4,000 relatives, concluded that, “when analyzed using morbid risk and family frequency calculations, results suggest that having an increased familial risk for schizophrenia is the underlying basis for schizophrenia in these samples — not the cannabis use.”
The problem is, as Hill noted, that people are people and they will always react differently to different things. Did some battle-hardened soldiers lose their shit smoking some high quality dank? Sure.
Have hormonaly charged teenagers made rash decisions whilst stoned? Absolutely- I’ll even put my hand up for that one; but then again, I made plenty of emotionally charged, reckless decisions whilst a sober teenager too.
Most of the population associating marijuana as a schizophrenic agitator are simply confusing temporary psychosis for a hereditary, genetic imbalance and it’s time for the reefer madness rumor mill to be put to an end.
Cannabis does not cause schizophrenia and this is a fact backed by medical professionals and sound science.
Should we then be worried about pot causing psychosis?
As adults we need to make informed decisions and understand the risks that are assumed when introducing a foreign substance to the body. Just like some people can’t handle their booze, not everyone can handle their herb. Studies have shown that excess caffeine and even Aspirin can induce a state of temporary psychosis, but when was the last time you witnessed an 80-year smear campaign against Red Bull or Bayer?
As with everything else, it should be a matter of education and harm prevention rather than a matter of vilification, defamation and prohibition.
Gotta run for now,
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