A major government-funded study has revealed that marijuana may be a driving force behind schizophrenia among young men. The researchers, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), found that about 30 percent of schizophrenia cases in men between the ages of 21 and 30 are linked to marijuana addiction, per the Daily Mail.
However, there is a link between marijuana and schizophrenia across all ages. The analysis included a study of 6 million people who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, finding that about 15 percent of men and 4 percent of women could attribute their psychological illness to marijuana.
The report noted that schizophrenia diagnoses have been on the rise in recent decades, allegedly linked to aging and growing populations. However, researchers are concerned that this could present a major problem, as marijuana has become legalized in many states across the US. Marijuana is recreationally legal in 22 states, Washington, DC, and Guam, as efforts to decriminalize the use of the drug have swept across the nation in recent years.
Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIDA and co-founder of the study, said that results were alarming, noting that people need to think twice before using the drug.
Volkow said: “The entanglement of substance use disorders and mental illnesses is a major public health issue, requiring urgent action and support for people who need it.”
“As access to potent cannabis products continues to expand, it is crucial that we also expand prevention, screening, and treatment for people who may experience mental illnesses associated with cannabis use.”
She continued: “The findings from this study are one step in that direction and can help inform decisions that health care providers may make in caring for patients, as well as decisions that individuals may make about their own cannabis use.”
Bloomberg reported that schizophrenia, often characterized by a loss of touch with reality and symptoms that include delusion and hearing voices, can be a lifelong ailment that is very difficult to treat. The illness has also had a substantial economic burden on the country, with the US spending $343.2 billion in 2019, which was more than double the amount just six years prior, in 2013.
Several other studies have reportedly discovered links between marijuana and schizophrenia, but they have not been able to pin down the exact cause of the onset.