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Are Marijuana and Schizophrenia Linked?

Updated on May 1, 2013

Can Marijuana Use and Schizophrenia be Linked?

Just how likely are you to develop schizophrenia from smoking pot?

Scientists and research seem to disagree.

Let's take a look at where research comes to such a hypothesis and surmise our own views along the way.

Your Brain On Drugs: Marijuana

As you can see from the video marijuana contains cannabinoids that interact with our own naturally occurring cannabinoids known as endocannabinoids.



Endocannabinoids vs. THC

However, the cannabinoids our bodies create are molecularlly different then the ones we ingest while smoking "Mary Jane", "pot", "weed", "reefer", "dope", etc..

When the "fake" cannabis (pot) mixes with the endocannabinoids we naturally produce our natural cannabinoid receptors stop working the way they should.

Marijuana over activates the endocannabinoid system, causing the high feeling and "slow motion" feelings that users often experience.

When THC (from marijuana) and our natural cannabinoids mix our brains face issues associated with distorted perception, impaired coordination, difficulty thinking, difficulty with problem solving, disrupted learning, paranoia, anxiety, and problems with memory.

Psychosis Definition

According to, psychosis is defined as:

1. a mental disorder characterized by symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations, that indicate impaired contact with reality.

2. any severe form of mental disorder, as schizophrenia or paranoia.

Among other symptoms, the symptoms described above; distorted perception, impaired coordination, anxiety, paranoia, difficulty thinking, difficulty with problem solving, disrupted learning, and memory issues, are often at the forefront of psychosis diagnosis.

Whether the psychosis is considered a temporary toxic psychosis or an indicator of impending mental illness scientists have yet to agree upon.

Cannabis and Schizophrenia


Genetically Predisposed to Schizophreania?

As human beings we are slightly altered blue prints of our families genetics both present and passed.

In essence making us genetically predisposed to whatever our biological parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. had or suffered from.

Mental illness is no different.

People are predisposed to mental illness the same way others are predisposed to near sightedness or high blood pressure.

Being genetically predisposed means your chances of inheriting the disease (in this case) schizophrenia are between 6.5% - 10%. If an immediate family member (mother, father, sister, brother, or identical twin) are diagnosed your chances of suffering from schizophrenia are greatly increased by up to 40%.

The rest of the population has less than a 1% chance of developing schizophrenia within their lifetime.


Brain Development, Marijuana Use, and Schizophrenia

Since your brain continues to grow and develop well into adulthood the time frame and frequency of marijuana use seems to be a big contributor to development of schizophrenia.

Since most individuals start to experiment with recreational drugs (in this case marijuana) in their early to late teens, it's no wonder that there maybe a correlation here.

From about 3 weeks gestation (often before one knows they are pregnant) all the way to someone's mid - late twenties our brains are still making necessary connections. Brain development does not cease until approximately 25 years old.

In fact during the brain development periods of life anything "out of the ordinary" can have an impact on one's mental well being. For instance, drug abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, or traumatic life events can also lead a person genetically predisposed to mental illness down the same or similar path.


How Much Pot is To Much Pot?

It seems that the question at hand is not a simple answer. But rather a detailed combination of many factors, such as:

  • At what age one starts using marijuana in relation to his or her brain development?
  • Is he or she genetically predisposed to mental illness?
  • If so to what degree?
  • What is the frequency of marijuana use?

Marujuana and Schizophrenia Statistics Compared (2011)

  • 83 million people reported having "tried" marijuana at least once in their lives
  • 25.8 million people reported having used marijuana within the last year
  • of the 25.8 million 15.2 million people reported using marijuana within the last month

The rate at which schizophrenia has been diagnosed stays at around 1% of the population since the 1960's.

Where as marijuana use has steadily increased through the decades (1960's - 2011).

Marijuana and Schizophrenia Link?

Do you believe that marijuana use and schizophrenia are linked?

See results

My Own Personal Take On a Marijuana and Schizophrenia Link

While I am by no means a Dr.; and while I try to remain unbiased as I deliver the facts I always find a need to add my own beliefs into the mix...

That said here goes...

Research, education information, tolerance, and 200+ more diagnosis in the DSM (from inception) makes a link to EVERYTHING clearer.

Since these "links" originally spawned from one scientists hypothesis surely there are many other links to mental illness left undiscovered. Hence the no known cures for many mental health disorders.....

I definitely believe there is a link between mental illness, drug abuse, and predisposition.

How deep do I believe that link is?

Not quite sure, I'm not sure if I believe that drug abuse spawns mental illness or if the mentally ill are just more likely to abuse drugs. I think both of those statements hold some merit.

BUT I also have to wonder if drug abuse was taken out of the equation would someone who was not diagnosed with mental illness NEVER develop a mental illness or a variation (at least a few symptoms?).

  • mania
  • depression
  • personality disorders

Since mental illness diagnosies en companies a long list of symptoms

including but not limited to:

  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • sleep disorders

I also have to wonder have we all not suffered with a symptom of mental illness at one point or another in our lives (regardless of how brief)? If not necessarily ourselves; someone very close to us?

Is there a link?

Absolutely, somewhere, there IS a link.

Many links actually.

But it's a combination of MANY factors including the ones discovered and the ones yet discovered.


Your Turn... Is there a link between marijuana and schizophrenia?

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    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi mercuryservices,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

    • mercuryservices profile image

      Alex Munkachy 5 years ago from Honolulu, Hawaii

      Good argument. Well planned out. I appreciate your opinion on this topic.

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      I think it would be better stated as it is not the "sole" cure or "sole" cause. Certainly it could help sufferes (somehow) and on the flip side it could also hinder some schizophrenics.

      But I agree it is not a true cure or true cause. Many factors come into play.

      Thanks for stopping by.


    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 5 years ago from Jamaica

      A glass of water can appear to cause madness if the symptoms occur after the person just drank the water. I know Marijuana can reinforce or reduce the symptoms associated with diagnosed schizophrenia. However, it can neither cure it or cause it.

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida


      Very interesting to say the least.... I would tend to think that the compound explained in the article would be less "toxic" to one's body if it was purely medicianl (then again what they add/subtract from it may make it questionable again) then an antipsychotic drug which actaully has severe side effects (some of the newer ones have less - but alas there so new no real correlations have been made).

      I really appreciate it..... Hmm maybe I should add to this one day with that link.


    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi SilverGenes,

      I'm gonna go have a look at your article :). Thanks for stopping by and offering a different persepctive. Since everything now a days is specualtion in regards to schizophrenia (other then the secure hereditary component) it's always good to dabble on all sides of the spectrum!

      Thanks again!


    • profile image

      SilverGenes 5 years ago

      Here is something that I found that may explain the correlation between schizophrenia and marijuana. Marijuana has more than one component and it depends on the strain which one is dominant. Cannabidiol (CBD) appears to actually aid in the treatment of schizophrenia while THC can make the symptoms worse or perhaps appear to 'cause' it in certain individuals because it attaches to particular receptors in the brain that regulate chemicals that are already out of balance in some people. I won't go on and on but there are some very interesting findings - it looks like it does not cause it at all but may offer some hope when compounded correctly. Have a look at this article in Time:

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Nicole Winter,

      I thought I mentioned that drug use could be the cause or the effect (if not I meant to - somewhere in there). Either way I agree with you that often time mental illness is the "backbone" that leads to drug abuse. An escape from one's own reality or torment if you will.

      As far as the reefer thing goes LOL.... your right it was/is a typo. When it comes to the correct spellings of 'slang I'm just NO GOOD (EVER). Thanks for pointing it out tho, I'm gonna go change it :).


    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi suzettenaples,

      I agree with you whole hearteldy that it depends on the individuals chemistry. If someone is predisposed to mental illness I think, like you mentioned, that any substance could "trigger" mental illness.

      I have many 'pot smoking friends who are "fine" so I don't believe it's conclusive that marijuana definitily contributes to schizophrenia I just think it's a real possibility. Of course no one really knows what the cause for schizophreania is (there are suggestions) but really it's all speculation at this point.

      Thanks for stopping by.


    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Rfordin: This is very interesting, thank-you for publishing it. I like how open you are about your own marijuana use and logical about the links between schizophrenia and smoking pot. (BTW, it's reefer, not reffer, just a little aside, not trying to be snarky, I'm sure it was a typo.) I'm also not a doctor, but would like to point out that schizophrenia may actually be the causal link in itself. It's been studied that people with schizophrenia have a higher risk of using many different illicit substances, with weed being at the top of that list.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 5 years ago from Taos, NM

      Very interesting and informative piece of writing. I think it depends on the person and this does not happen in everyone. I know people who are schizophrenic and have never done drugs and I know people who are schizophrenic and have done drugs. I think any time you put any drug in your body, legal or otherwise, you are messing with your body chemistry. While I do see and understand the research presented here, the bottom line for me is it depends on the person and their particular body chemistry and brain wiring. I don't think one drug can be the cause of the onset of this mental illness.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I believe that for some, smoking marijuana will definitely leave one feeling disoriented, and it's not surprising that the person develops the symptoms of schizophrenia. I guess there is a possible link, but I suppose we'd have to leave the confirmation to the experts!! Thanks for sharing, Becky.

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hey teaches12345,

      Well I must admit I have smoked marijuana before . I also must confess my biolgical families background is chock full of mental illness as well. I'm one of the luckier ones.

      Don't get me wrong I am a litte "unique" but I am far from what someone (whoever that maybe) might consider mentally ill, although I do have my "quirks".

      Always a pleasure...thanks for stopping by to see me and discuss.


    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks for the information. I have never smoked pot and have no desire to start at any time. I love how you have posted your research and backed it up with good sources. I am going to reread so that I can understand it better. Voted up!

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Colten,

      Thanks for stopping by to see me and sharing that sensitive information. If you don't mind me asking does mental illness run in your family?

      Again thanks for stopping by.


    • Colten Garrett profile image

      Colten Garrett 5 years ago from Indiana

      I have no clue I have Schizophrenia and I've never smoked Marijuana in my life.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Hello again -- in answer to your question -- yes, the pot smokers I've known in the music business are normal, high functioning human beings, successful and intent on furthering their careers. They

      contri bute to the community, worthy causes and few, other than close friends/associates even know they are pot smokers. The other side of that coin are what I call the "professional" smokers who smoke as a lifestyle and who wouldn't work, achieve or contribute whether they smoked pot or not -- the leeches on society. Probably some of them do suffer mental problems but I'd consider the vast majority to be just plain lazy. My opinion only, of course. Best/Sis

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Angela,

      The "pot smokers" you mention are they all normal, fucntioning adults? I'm just curious.....

      I know a few people who are able to function regardless of whatever they put in their bodies, they work, cook, clean, drive heavy machinery, etc.

      Then I know a few "pot heads" who dose around all day and do nothing, and are quite happy with just sitting at home ALL DAY long smoking pot (I'm not talking teenagers here either).... I wonder if those "non-fucntioning" pot heads are using marijuana as a band-aid to depression and hurting themselves more in the process?

      Anyways I went kinda off on a tangent there...

      Thanks for stopping by to see me.


    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Being in the music business for a jillion years I've long been aware of pot smokers -- and even tried it myself a couple of times but found I go to sleep nearly immediately and miss whatever's going on -- like a party. I know a lot of very long-time pot smokers and can not see that they've been damaged by the habit in any way. I've also witnessed people who have been prescribed mood altering drugs by physicians (for what ever reason) and chose to smoke pot in the alternative. Having stated my problem with smoking pot -- I'm sure it affects all people differently as none of my friends dozed off and missed the party -- in fact it enhanced it for them so a great deal must depend on the individual's physical makeup and mental state. Excellent Hub and interesting read! Best/Sis

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      All to often people with mental illness choose to self medicate for whatever reason. In my opinion it's a way for them to gain control of a situation they would otherwise have no control over....thanks for coming to see me again and conversating with me on this. It's awesome to see other peoples points of one "food for thought".


    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Rfordin...GOOD point! I knew a young man who suffered terribly with Bi-polar disorder (two of his siblings did, as well) This guy for some mis-guided reason, chose not to be medically treated and/or monitored, but opted instead to "self-medicate" with pot.

      I can clearly attest to the fact that, using pot during his manic episodes, helped to curtail the severe swing and kept him containable.....However, using while in the depressed state, was extremely detrimental to him, as well as those around him.

      Good example of thinking about pot in terms of "medication." Thanks for bringing this out.

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi fpheri48,

      First off thanks for stopping by.

      I agree with you whole heartedly. I think there are to many unanswered questions about schizophrenia to point the blame anywhere.

      Again I totally agree with your statement on your statement to the tune of....Anything can harm someone, just depends on that someone.

      As far as marijuana specifically is concerend I'm gonna have to say that I lean more to the side that suffers of mental illness often use marijuana rather then marijuana causing the mental illness to begin with.

      Again thanks for stopping by to see me and commenting.


    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Rfordin...You did a superb job on this very informative hub. I could easily vote it Up, useful and interesting.

      However it's not at all simple for me to respond to, in terms of offering my opinion. The reality is, I start off from the opposite side of the street.

      Marijuana, in it's pure, natural and untainted form, is misnamed as a "drug." Fact is, it is a herb, that grows freely and independently in many areas, with no assistance from man.

      I am very aware of all the thousands of studies...the research and medical/scientific claims.....all the experiments the controversy and Lord knows...the volumes of material printed.

      As for the "possible link" you present. I believe it's safe as well as fair to say, anything is "possible."

      There are adverse effects, allergies, catalysts, spontaneous mysteries and even sudden death that can and have been associated with anything a human can ingest, breathe, or come in contact with. Medications, foliage, air born elements,....I needn't go on, I'm sure.

      That being said, to not belabor this, if you're asking for a personal opinion, I'll have to go with, "I have significant doubt that there is a link." In my professional opinion....I would reserve a definitive comment, without further aggressive study...of my own.

      Once again....your hub is excellent.....UP++

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Ya know I thought about adding a "but what about medical marijuana" suptopic but decided aganist it. I'm sure like every medication available there are some "side effects". Although I'm almost 100% positive the side of the diseases/illnesses you mentioned FAR OUTWEIGH the side effects of medical marijuana.

      And of course like you's like comparing "bathtub gin to fine wine".

      Bathtub gin? Ewwwwwwwwwww

      Thanks for stopping by.


    • profile image

      SilverGenes 5 years ago

      You've done a good job with this hub. No, I don't believe marijuana and mental illness is linked either. Nor do I think the use of marijuana is drug abuse. I've seen too many people benefit from it when used in illnesses like cancer, arthritis, and other debilitating conditions. Interestingly, there are no side effects like those associated with pharmaceutical drugs. Having said that, I'm not talking about what is sold on sleazy street corners.. who knows what's added to that stuff? It's kind of like comparing homemade bathtub gin with fine wine :)

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      Hi Sunshine625,

      I love seeing you everywhere :).

      Thanks for stopping by to see me here.


    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      From my experience I'd have to say they aren't linked :) Excellent hub though and well researched!

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 years ago from Florida

      I know plenty of people who smoke pot too. I think I can say they are not schizophrenic BUT I'm not sure I can say they are what society considers normal by any means.

      Of course thank you for stopping by.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good job Becky! Is there a link? I'm not smart enough to answer that. I have so many friends who are pot smokers; I have seen no evidence at all of schizophrenia....does that mean there is no link? Certainly not, but my small sampling of what, fifty people, is enough to make me question any such link exists. :)


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