There has always been a link between mental illness and addiction. Though they occur independently, one can always lead to the other. The chances of a mental disorder leading to an addiction are less, but it is generally the addiction that invites a mental disorder. The adjoining effect can be compared with the condition such as diabetes that is often being diagnosed in case of a heart disease. Such co-existence of an addiction and a mental disorder is known as dual diagnosis.
Though the concept of dual diagnosis is less known to people, its occurrence is largely prevalent. While there are several mental disorders that might occur following a certain addiction, the most commonly known co-occurring disorders are marijuana addiction and schizophrenia, cocaine addiction and anxiety disorders, depression and alcohol, and opioid addiction and PTSD.
Exploring the link between marijuana addiction and schizophrenia
Marijuana is one of the most popular illicit drugs in the United States. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2013, there were 19.8 million marijuana users in the U.S. Owing to the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, it is one of the most widely available drugs across the country. As a result, most of the smoking population comprises of students and teenagers.
Like any other drug, marijuana also tends to increase the level of dopamine in the body which further causes harmful effects. Thus, smoking marijuana has a number of drawbacks and hazards, starting from increased risk of lung cancer to developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
The association between marijuana addiction and schizophrenia has kept the scientists busy and wondering since ages. In the 1960s and 1970s, scientists strongly held marijuana responsible for causing psychosis. Psychosis is a set of severe mental disorders that impair the relationship between the reality and imagination of a person. Hence, hallucination and delusion are common to people with psychotic disorders; the most common psychotic disorder being schizophrenia.
People addicted to marijuana smoking often have reported experiencing psychotic symptoms such as hearing voices, imagining people and hallucinating. Despite numerous research and studies, none has been able to clearly define the link between the two. While certain studies suggest marijuana tends to trigger schizophrenia in people already at the risk of developing the mental illness, another segment talks about adults at risk of developing the mental illness if they used cannabis during their adolescence. In such cases, cannabis becomes an instigating factor that interacts with the aspect that would cause schizophrenia.
Marijuana causes long-term alterations to the brain
Amid the research and studies to establish the link, a research by clinical psychiatrist Dr. Hiroshi Ujike of the Okayama University, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, stated that marijuana intake tends to cause genetic abnormalities among one in 100 people that lead to the development of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.
As per the research, marijuana contains a substance called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that causes long-term alterations in the brain by affecting its chemicals. The changes further create disturbances in the transmission of information from one nerve cell to another, causing conditions like memory loss, anxiety, mood disorders and other. As a result, an individual becomes vulnerable to develop schizophrenia.
Similarly, another research suggested that use of cannabis is associated with causing damage to everyday memory due to which people encounter trouble in remembering names, faces or necessities like switching off the lights or picking up car keys. The chances of such memory loss are 10 percent higher in people who smoke weed between five and 20 times a month, when compared to non-users, added the research.
Way to recovery
Despite no study being able to establish the certified reason behind the co-existence of marijuana addiction and schizophrenia, the link cannot be overlooked. Whether it is due to an addiction that one develops the mental disorder or it is due to genetic predisposition, the triggering factor remains unclear.
However, it is important to seek medical help in case of addiction to any substance or occurrence of any mental disorder, or in case of a dual diagnosis. If you or your loved one is suffering from co-occurring disorders, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. If you would like to know more about dual diagnosis drug treatment in California, you may connect with the California Dual Diagnosis Helpline. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 980-1736 or chat online to get in touch with the best dual diagnosis rehab in California.