Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strong Pot: What Do Schizophrenics Think?

Small study asks patients for their opinions.

The theory, fiercely debated in the research community, that strong cannabis can actually cause schizophrenia—or is associated with relapse in schizophrenics who smoke it—is the subject of a small study from Switzerland on outpatient schizophrenics, some of whom were pot smokers.

 A study of this kind, with only 10 subjects, verges on the anecdotal. Nonetheless, it is worth a look, just to see if any verification of the theory lurks therein.

In their paper for the open access Harm Reduction Journal“Do patients think cannabis causes schizophrenia? A qualitative study on the causal beliefs of cannabis using patients with schizophrenia”—psychiatric workers with the Research Group on Substance Use Disorders interviewed patients who attended an outpatient clinic at the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich. The researchers did it because, as the paper states, “patients’ beliefs on the role of cannabis in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia have—to our knowledge—not been studied so far…”

“None of the patients described a causal link between the use of cannabis and their schizophrenia,” the researchers determined. However, several of the schizophrenics did have their own version of a disease model to account for their illness. Five of the patients attributed their schizophrenia to “upbringing under difficult circumstances,” and three placed the blame on “substances other than cannabis (e.g. hallucinogens).” The remaining two patients gave “other reasons.”

Interestingly, four of the patients “considered cannabis a therapeutic aid and reported that positive effects (reduction of anxiety and tension) prevailed over its possible disadvantages (exacerbation of positive symptoms).” The authors conclude that excluding schizophrenic patients from treatment settings because of marijuana use “may cause additional harm to this already heavily burdened patient group.”

Graphics Credit: http://www.salem-news.com

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