Research Study on Effects of THC on Schizophrenia-Like Symptoms

The world of botany is huge, with around 500 species. Among these species, is a plant called Cannabis sativa L. This plant gives the famous recreational drug, marijuana – also known as cannabis.

Apart from this compound, it also gives an anti-psychotic extract called Cannabidiol, known as CBD. Marijuana has THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as its major component. THC is what makes marijuana psychoactive.

What is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder where there is an abnormal interpretation of reality. It results in extremely disordered and scattered thinking, mostly paranoia.

Symptoms of schizophrenia are

Disordered thinking and speech problems – The disordered and incoherent speech is the result of disordered thinking.

There might be excess lethargy, uncommon postures.
People symptomatic of schizophrenia have no focus, hence working towards goals is tougher. They might exhibit excess movement.

Their answers to questions are usually not related to the question at all, due to their impaired thinking.

Hallucinations – Seeing things that aren’t present and hearing voices when there are none is a characteristic symptom of this mental disorder.

However illogical it may seem to a normal person, for a schizophrenic, it feels like a completely real experience. They are unable to differentiate between real experiences and hallucinations.

Delusions – A person suffering from schizophrenia is usually very deluded. Schizophrenic people usually have false beliefs that have no realistic or logical base.

Some delusions include being chased by someone, thinking that someone has murderous intent towards them, thinking that they’re highly gifted, etc. Paranoia is another characteristic feature.

The danger signs which are characteristic of teenage schizophrenia are –

Withdrawal from friends and family member –  The affected person becomes extremely aloof. A schizophrenic person may show sudden bouts of rage, again, owing to the disordered thinking.

Drop in grades– This must not be taken lightly, as the affected teenager is suffering from a mental disorder that affects his/her processing and retention skills.

Compared to adults suffering from schizophrenia, a teenager may have more visual hallucinations than delusions.

People suffering from schizophrenia need lifelong treatment.

Schizophrenia also makes the affected person suicidal. It is up to the schizophrenic person’s friends/family to get medical attention, as the ailing person is not able to process that his/her actions and thoughts are due to a mental disorder.

If detected early, the symptoms can be got under control before the development of serious complications.

What happened in the study

The plant Cannabis has many compounds (called cannabinoids), but there are two compounds which have opposing actions.

They are delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9-THC), which has psychedelic effects (causes hallucinations, delirium, etc), and cannabidiol (CBD), which has anti-psychotic effects.

The hair samples were analyzed in 140 volunteers to study the levels of THC and CBD. There were three groups of results-

  • THC+CBD
  • Only THC
  • No cannabinoids

The group with the only THC showed heightened levels of schizophrenia-like symptoms, in comparison with the group with the THC+CBD combination and those with no cannabinoids in their hair sample.

Also, the group with the only THC showed higher levels of delusions compared to the non-cannabinoid group.

This provides proof of the opposing properties of the cannabinoids.

This also provides important inferences for research in the link between cannabis use and psychosis.

What did the study conclude?

The study concluded that people who use cannabis (marijuana), are more prone to schizophrenia, than people who don’t, as the results for people with THC in their hair showed more pro schizophrenia attributes.

What does this mean?

These results may be used to prevent schizophrenia in healthy adults, by warning them of the ill effects of consuming marijuana or cannabis. Even though schizophrenia is a mental disorder, this study shows the link between substance abuse and schizophrenia.

Read the research paper here –
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18378995

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