Schizophrenia, Cannabis, and the AKT1 Gene

We’ve written several articles on the Cornerstone blog about cannabis and schizophrenia. The association between the two is one of the most fascinating puzzles of cannabis science. What we know is that people suffering from schizophrenia are more likely to use cannabis than non-users, and daily cannabis users have a small but doubled risk of developing a psychiatric disorder. Like all psychoactive substances, medical or recreational, cannabis is not for everyone. What makes someone more susceptible to an adverse reaction to cannabis? Or any substance for that matter? What increases someone’s likelihood of being a daily user? At the turn of the century, the idea that anyone could be predisposed to a particular psychoactive reaction was largely disregarded. In fact, many physicians did not accept alcoholism as a valid illness when it was originally added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, genetic research has changed so much of our understanding of psychiatric health. Rather than imagining everyone to have the same psychological operating system, we know that genes dictate large differences from person to person. Even within an individual, genes can be activated and deactivated throughout a person’s lifetime due to environmental factors and stress. Readers may be able to identify with having a friend who cannot or does not smoke cannabis due to repeatedly unpleasant experiences. “It just doesn’t sit well with me.” Such people are unknowingly referring to their genetic make up and general neurological condition. Of course, knowing that there is a genetic…

Facts and Myths of Schizophrenia and Cannabis

Critics of medical cannabis use often bring up the association between cannabis use and mental illness. In this context, the implication is almost always that cannabis use is unsafe and can exacerbate or initiate psychotic symptoms in both healthy and afflicted individuals. Yikes. While some of these claims are accurate, they are also incredibly misleading to the discussion about medical cannabis’ relationship with psychotic disorders. For example, it would be entirely factual to say that automobiles are involved in thousands of deaths each year. It would also be entirely factual to say that without automobile usage, vehicular death would not occur! This is clearly a very silly way to look at the situation: Automobiles transport food and medicines, and some automobiles like ambulances, literally save lives by allowing people to be rushed to proper medical facilities. The safety of a vehicle inevitably depends on who is driving it and what rules and road systems they are subject to. In this case it would be difficult to successfully argue that refusing to ride in an automobile is a healthy decision in modern society. Stating the facts without stating the whole context can be completely misleading. Likewise, the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia cannot be stated in one sentence. Both chemical and natural psychedelic substances, like cannabis, are well documented to trigger cases of mental illness. By transporting users to different mental states, these drugs can set off acute and long-term psychotic episodes, so any responsible medical doctor should advise patients with…

Does Cannabis help Neuropsychiatric Disorders?

For most states with medical cannabis laws, patients are required to go through a screening process once a year to allow access to cannabis. On the one hand, this screening process is not designed to be severe, and realistically, few people are turned away from help with cannabis. On the other hand, this process is intended to serve as a boiler-plate to keep cannabis out of the hands of individuals for whom it might not be appropriate. Seeing that cannabis does not have harmful side-effects and is physically very safe, the real concern is whether patients who are already in an altered state of mind should be taking a psychoactive substance. Studies have linked early cannabis use to hastening the onset of serious psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia. This is not unique to cannabis and also true of any psychoactive substance. If someone is having a hard time navigating reality, taking a medicine or recreational drug that alters his/her mind-state even further may push him/her over the edge. Despite this well-established fact, there are also many psychiatric patients that receive relief from cannabis and tend to do worse without it. The medical field has also shown increased interest in treating psychiatric illness with cannabis. So what’s the deal? Does cannabis contribute to or relieve schizophrenia? Or is there no effect? The difficulty in answering this lies partly in the fact that schizophrenia is not well understood and could actually be multiple illnesses that have been lumped into one category due…