Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition. Symptoms can result in dangerous and at times self-destructive behaviors that can negatively impact your day-to-day life. You may experience symptoms regularly or they may come and go in phases.

Symptoms include:

  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • speech difficulty
  • unpredictable behavior
  • inability to function

Schizophrenia requires vigilant lifelong treatment. It’s very important to work with a doctor to create a treatment plan that addresses your symptoms.

You may be tempted to self-medicate with marijuana. You may think that it helps you manage your symptoms, but just the opposite may be true. Many studies suggest that the drug may:

  • trigger the condition in people who may be susceptible to schizophrenia
  • make existing symptoms worse
  • put you at risk for substance abuse

Additionally, marijuana is still illegal in the majority of states, including for medicinal purposes. It is considered illegal by the Drug Enforcement Administration because it is still listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

There is no single known cause of schizophrenia. Some suspected causes include:

  • genetics
  • brain development
  • complications that occurred in utero or during birth

There are also events that may trigger the condition. They include:

Researchers have published many studies about marijuana use and schizophrenia. These studies range in how they approach the topic, but most draw negative effects between the drug and the condition.

Keep in mind that there are many variables at play in these studies. Some variables are:

  • drug use frequency
  • drug potency
  • age
  • risk factors for schizophrenia

Regular marijuana use may increase your risk for schizophrenia or other mental illness

You may be more at risk of developing schizophrenia if you use marijuana habitually. One 2017 study looked at marijuana use and the risk of developing schizophrenia and found marijuana users had a 1.37 times increased risk for developing the condition than those who did not use the drug.

A 2018 study showed an increase of 2 percent in cases of serious mental illness in states that have made medical marijuana legal.

Certain genes in your body may trigger the condition if you use marijuana

Some recent studies have examined specific genes you may have in your body and how they may increase your risk for schizophrenia. If you have a certain type of AKTI gene and use marijuana, your risk of developing a psychotic disorder can increase according to a 2012 study of nearly 500 people experiencing psychosis, plus a control group.

The frequency of marijuana intake also comes into play with this gene. Those who use the drug every day and have this gene variant may be at a seven times higher risk for schizophrenia than those with the variant who do not use the drug or who use it very infrequently.

Genes linked to the condition may increase the likelihood that you’ll use marijuana frequently

Genes that put you at risk for the condition may also make it more likely that you will use marijuana, according to one 2017 study.

A 2014 study linked the deficit of the brain’s reward processing system in those with schizophrenia as a possible indicator that people will use the drug frequently.

Marijuana use in young teens may lead to the condition later in life

The age people begin using the drug may also lead to schizophrenia when they get older.

One often referenced, 15-year longitudinal study of more than 50,000 people in the armed services in Sweden, indicated that those who used marijuana by the time they turned 18 were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than those who had not used the drug. Frequent use increased that risk.

You may also be at increased risk for schizophrenia if you use the drug as an adolescent and carry the COMT gene.

Research has not only examined how marijuana might be a causal risk factor for schizophrenia. Other research highlights how marijuana can worsen symptoms and lead to substance abuse.

Marijuana can make the condition worse

You may be at a higher risk for relapses, worsening symptoms, and even hospitalization if you have schizophrenia and use marijuana. For example, a substance in the drug can contribute to anxiety or paranoia.

Use can lead to substance abuse

You may be at risk of developing a substance abuse disorder if you have schizophrenia. Drug use disorders and mental health conditions can develop simultaneously because their risk factors are similar. Some people may also try to self-medicate with drugs in order to control symptoms.

Cannabis use disorder can occur in as much as 42 percent of those with schizophrenia. This disorder can cause the condition to worsen.

Most research on marijuana and schizophrenia concludes that using the drug is not beneficial. Talk to your doctor about other treatment methods to manage your condition. These may include prescription medications as well as therapy. You should not self-medicate. A doctor should direct your treatment plan.

Many studies have linked marijuana to health benefits in recent decades. Keep in mind that the plant itself is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use.

However, the FDA has approved the use of individual components of marijuana or similar synthetic substances for specific health purposes. These are called cannabinoids. They include:

  • cannabidiol or CBD (Epidiolix) to treat seizures in rare forms of epilepsy
  • dronabinol (Syndros) to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy and restoring appetite in people who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
  • nabilone (Cesamet) to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy

Several states have approved marijuana for medical use even though it is not federally regulated. Some benefits of the drug for medical use may include:

New research may uncover more evidence of the benefits of the drug for certain health conditions.

Using marijuana if you have schizophrenia could have negative outcomes. You may develop anxiety or paranoia after using the drug, for example. You should contact a doctor if you experience these sensations.

You should also contact a doctor if you are having suicidal thoughts or if you are unable to function in daily life because of your condition.

Marijuana may not be a useful drug if you have schizophrenia or if you are at risk for developing the condition. Many studies have linked negative outcomes with marijuana use and this serious mental health condition. There are other treatment options available for managing the condition that can help you reduce symptoms effectively.