Cannabis-Schizophrenia Link Could Be Misinterpreted
June 25th, 2014
Policy, Top News
Many cannabis critics point to studies showing that the drug can cause serious long-term mental problems, such as schizophrenia and dementia. Since cannabinoids certainly affect the brain, these critics turned a strong correlation argument into a causation argument that has led to a lot of public misinformation.
A new study conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London proposes that the opposite could be happening. That is, that a gene related to schizophrenia may lead people to want to smoke marijuana. The study could suggest that a third party factor is at play causing both things to occur.
“We know that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia,” said Robert Power, who led the study, in an interview with Reuters. “Our study certainly does not rule this out, but it suggests that there is likely to be an association in the other direction as well – that a pre-disposition to schizophrenia also increases your likelihood of cannabis use.”
The researchers’ official conclusions stated:
“Although considerable evidence implicates cannabis use as a component cause of schizophrenia, it remains unclear whether this is entirely due to cannabis directly raising risk of psychosis, or whether the same genes that increase psychosis risk may also increase the risk of cannabis use… These findings suggest that part of the association between schizophrenia and cannabis use is due to a shared genetic aetiology.”
The study is significant given the increasing move towards legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in the United States. Concerns about mental health issues have remained a hot-button issue in many states leaning conservative on cannabis laws and studies like these could help alleviate some of the concerns and ultimately pave the way towards a cohesive nationwide policy.
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