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Scientists hint at causal association between schizophrenia and marijuana

Scientists hint at causal association between schizophrenia and marijuana

Years of research has proved that mentally ill patients are more vulnerable to using drugs in an attempt to self-medicate or seek necessary relief from its symptoms. A group of researchers in their study titled “Assessing causality in associations between cannabis use and schizophrenia risk: a two-sample Mendelian randomization study” have suggested that people with likelihood of being afflicted with schizophrenia show greater inclination to use marijuana. The study got published online in the journal Psychological Medicine in December 2016.

The study was based on the assumption of cannabis use being responsible for increasing risk of schizophrenia in drug users as evidenced by prior studies. The scientists also observed that the opposite is also likely. The findings indicated the cause-and-effect association between using the drug and potential risk of suffering from the mental health disorder which led the scientists to conclude that use of the drug was a way to self-medicate by schizophrenics.

The researchers, for study purposes, made use of Mendelian Randomization (MR) techniques to evaluate publicly available details from genome-wide association studies. MR is a form of instrumental variable analysis that makes use of genetic variants to help doctors foretell either risk of cannabis use or schizophrenia.

While elucidating the importance of the findings, one of the co-authors of the study, Dr. Suzi H. Gage, research associate with the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, said, “Our results use a novel method to attempt to untangle the association between cannabis and schizophrenia. While we find stronger evidence that schizophrenia risk predicts cannabis use, rather than the other way round, it doesn’t rule out a causal risk of cannabis use on schizophrenia.”

Schizophrenia may increase risk of cannabis use

The association between schizophrenia and cannabis has been found to be causal with the former being responsible for the later as opposed to drug use being the result of common risk factors. However, the observations do not help in understanding the extent of the impact. The current study only looks at cannabis initiation but not at the effects of long-term use. Gage suggests studying a wider population of heavy cannabis users who may be at greater risk. Examining genetic variants of cannabis-dependent individuals will also help in better assessment of the risk of schizophrenia.

The observations of the study, however, can be deemed important as they lend weight to physicians’ concerns about psychotic patients’ vulnerability to drug use. This also indicates the necessity to carry out studies on a much larger scale to understand the effects of mental illnesses and how they can increase risk of substance abuse.

Need for dual diagnosis to avail better treatment facilities

Psychologists treating their emotionally distraught patients need to inquire about their drug taking habits. This will help them understand if their patients have ever attempted to self-medicate with substances before availing the necessary medical intervention or if their patients’ mental health condition has worsened owing to the impact of drugs they use. It is important to diagnose if a patient if suffering from a co-occurring disorder because the treatment program will emphasize on treating both disorders simultaneously.

If you know someone who is suffering from co-existing problems of substance use disorder and mental illness, the Florida Dual Diagnosis Helpline can help in finding the best possible treatments available at dual diagnosis treatment centers in Florida that address the root cause of the problem and reduce the risk of relapse. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-337-7631 or chat online for more information on the finest dual diagnosis treatment in Florida.