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New Bristol University study finds cannabis use may NOT lead to schizophrenia in young people

M Ribbeck

Bristol Post

Monday 19 Dec 2016

It has become conventional wisdom that the use of cannabis can trigger schizophrenia in young people.

But a new study from Bristol University has turned the conventional wisdom on its head.

The study has found that there is evidence that many young people with schizophrenic tendencies maybe using the drug to self-medicate.

Earlier this year there were public health warnings about the harmful effects of super strong cannabis on younger people.

Some scientists believe that the stronger strains of cannabis that now dominate the market can lead to schizophrenia.

The latest study from Bristol's School of Experimental Psychology sheds fresh light on the issue.

There was some evidence to support the theory that cannabis use is a contributory factor in increasing the risk of schizophrenia, but the researchers were also surprised to find stronger evidence that the opposite was also likely.

The findings have added weight to the idea that the drug may be used as a form of self-medication by some people.

"The evidence suggested that schizophrenia risk predicts the likelihood of trying cannabis," said Dr Suzi Gage.

"However, the relationship could operate in both directions. Our results don't really allow us to accurately predict the size of the effect - they're more about providing evidence that the relationship is actually causal, rather than the result of confounding or common risk factors."

Dr Gage added: "Our results use a novel method to attempt to untangle the association between cannabis and schizophrenia. While we find stronger evidence that schizophrenia risk predicts cannabis use, rather than the other way round, it doesn't rule out a causal risk of cannabis use on schizophrenia.

"What will be interesting is digging deeper in to the potential sub-populations of cannabis users who may be at greater risk, and getting a better handle on the impact of heavy cannabis use.

"In this study we could only look at cannabis initiation. What would really help progress this research is to use genetic variants that predict heaviness of cannabis use, as it seems that heavy cannabis use is most strongly associated with risk of schizophrenia. Once genetic variants are identified that predict heaviness of cannabis use we'll be able to do this."

Meanwhile, the number of women endangering their child's health by smoking cannabis during pregnancy has risen by 62 percent in twelve years.

Research has shown the drug can damage an unborn baby's brain as well as increase its risk of developing health problems such as asthma.

A study in the US has shown the prevalence of marijuana use among expectant mothers in the past month in the past month rose from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 3.9 percent in 2014.




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