How Does Marijuana Affect Bipolar and Schizophrenia Disorders?

How Does Marijuana Affect Bipolar and Schizophrenia Disorders?

There has been an ongoing debate among medical professionals and scientists about the relationship between regular marijuana use and co-occurring mental disorders: particularly bipolar disorder (BPD) and schizophrenia. The consensus is that marijuana use can cause adverse mental effects that mimic or worsen existing mental conditions, though the correlation is not entirely understood.

For patients who may be genetically vulnerable to specific disorders, it’s important to understand the neurobiological effects of marijuana use. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons and how marijuana specifically affects those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder as a mental health condition that can cause radical shifts in energy, activity, mood, and the ability to perform daily tasks. Those with bipolar disorder can experience manic episodes involving rapid mood swings, ranging from emotions like elation and euphoria with increased energy, to depressive “lows” with intense feelings of indifference or hopelessness. These two extremes can be quite drastic without proper treatment, and estimates suggest that about 4.4% of adult Americans have this condition. No one knows the exact cause of bipolar disorder, but there are strong links between biological and genetic factors.

Does Marijuana Help Patients With Bipolar Disorder?

It’s not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to self-medicate, particularly with marijuana usage. While there is some anecdotal evidence that cannabis can be helpful, the science is far from clear. It’s important to note that one of the components in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes the “high” after use. This substance is the central focus of how cannabis affects those with bipolar disorder.

Though it may feel good at first, the high from THC can exacerbate mental health symptoms and could result in hallucinations. Because the opposite extreme of manic highs is depressive “lows,” the high from marijuana can make that emotional crash much more profound. Therefore, it is not recommended for teens with mental health conditions to use marijuana, as this substance has addictive qualities that can contribute to harmful self-medicating habits.

What Are the Negative Effects of Marijuana Use With Bipolar Disorder?

The adverse effects of marijuana use among patients with bipolar disorder are far more evident than the positive ones. There is a link established between cannabis and the following:

  • Longer, worsened manic episodes
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Quicker shifts from depressive to manic episodes
  • Worsened bipolar symptoms or developing BPD at an earlier age

It’s been reported that those who smoke marijuana regularly are less likely to experience “remission” from their BPD symptoms compared to patients who don’t smoke. It has also been discovered that those who smoke marijuana regularly may have higher disability levels, complete with worsened manic-depressive symptoms.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a relatively rare but serious mental illness that can affect the thought process. It often causes difficulty handling complex emotions, making decisions, and hallucinations: seeing or hearing things that aren’t real.

No one is sure of the cause of this condition. It’s a complex disorder with many factors, most likely from genetics. However, we do know that those who experience complications with brain chemicals are more likely to develop schizophrenia. We also know that drug use—particularly marijuana—can worsen existing symptoms.

What Is the Connection Between Marijuana Use and Schizophrenia?

It has been noted that marijuana use is common among schizophrenia patients. In fact, younger patients are more likely to abuse marijuana than alcohol. Researchers aren’t entirely certain what this means, though it’s likely that patients are just looking for more relief for their symptoms. However, the desire to self-medicate probably isn’t enough to explain the connection between schizophrenia and cannabis.

Psychosis is the common denominator between marijuana and schizophrenia. This isn’t a mental disorder itself but rather a symptom. Psychosis involves a disruption of thought that makes it difficult to discern what’s real and what isn’t. Psychosis could include seeing or hearing things that aren’t there or having intrusive thoughts that don’t go away. Psychosis can be one form of schizophrenia; a qualified mental health professional can discern the difference.

Is Marijuana Safe for People With Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia?

Multiple studies have shown that being high on marijuana can produce symptoms of psychosis. The effect can go away as the high wears off, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the substance isn’t harmful. Each individual's medical circumstances are unique, so there is no consensus among scientists or doctors about how marijuana affects people with mental disorders overall.

Still, the addictive qualities of cannabis, combined with the effects of other medications for mental disorders, are not a recommended combination. We strongly discourage anyone, but especially teenagers, from using marijuana if they have a diagnosed mental health disorder.

If you’re concerned about your marijuana use or want to learn more about how it may affect your symptoms, it is best to consult your doctor.

Is Marijuana Recommended At All For Bipolar Or Schizophrenic Patients?

The addictive nature of cannabis is not recommended for teenagers who may already be prone to self-medicate. What's more, cannabis is known to cause feelings of paranoia or anxiousness: two things that are already present among bipolar and schizophrenic patients. Because cannabis can exacerbate these symptoms, it can lead to worsened mental health over time. Regular marijuana use is also linked to depression and thoughts of suicide.

Finally, the link between regular marijuana use and schizophrenia is higher among people who start smoking it at a young age. Talk to your teen about not using marijuana even if their friends do; their mental health may depend on being able to resist the pressure.

Crownview Co-Occurring Institute is a reputable institution that seeks to help people suffering the effects of mental disorders, substance abuse, and more. We understand that these disorders can present themselves in many ways, involving factors that range from genetic to environmental and directly affect the way we approach treatment. Rather than using a "one size fits all" approach, we assess our patients as unique, multi-faceted individuals. Our therapists are highly trained, compassionate, and non-judgmental. You will be free to explain your symptoms in a safe, confidential, judgment-free space. To learn more about the programs and treatments we offer, as well as information regarding payment options with your existing insurance plan, call us today at 760-231-1170. Additionally, you can verify your insurance plan or access a contact form through our website. We'll get in touch with you as soon as possible to walk you through the intake process.

Can Alcoholism Cause Schizophrenia?

The connection between alcohol abuse and schizophrenia is intensely debated by psychologists. It can be a “chicken and egg” issue: Which came first? Which condition fuels the other? What is the link between the two disorders, and how does that affect the course of treatment that therapists use for their patients? This subject is as complex as the real people who suffer from both disorders.

What Is Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder that affects a person’s perception of reality. The most common symptoms of schizophrenia are hallucinations or delusions: seeing or hearing things that aren’t real. This type of disordered thinking can have a dramatic effect on a person’s ability to function in day-to-day life.

It’s common for people with schizophrenia to display behaviors like aimless wandering, ignoring personal hygiene, and laughing or mumbling to themselves. However, with therapy and medication – or a combination of both – people with schizophrenia are able to live full, productive lives.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol abuse, involves difficulty controlling your drinking. A person who consumes several drinks in a short period – otherwise called “binge drinking” – is constantly preoccupied with alcohol, finds it difficult to function without alcohol, and may struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Binge drinking in men looks like consuming five or more drinks within two hours or less; binge drinking among women looks like at least four drinks in the same time frame.

Some people struggling with alcoholism need to consume a certain amount of alcohol in order to experience a particular euphoric effect. They may also experience severe withdrawal symptoms when they don’t drink or don’t consume as much as usual. If you or a loved one experiences difficulty functioning in daily life as a result of alcohol use, it’s possible that AUD is present.

How Are Alcoholism and Schizophrenia Connected?

The symptoms of alcoholism and schizophrenia are incredibly similar, particularly the tendency to have hallucinations or delusions. While psychosis caused by alcohol is not an official mental health diagnosis, it is considered a symptom of something more serious.

In many cases, an individual with schizophrenia may find that their symptoms subside when they reduce their alcohol intake. We may not know for sure if alcohol abuse causes schizophrenia, but psychologists are quite confident that alcohol makes schizophrenic symptoms worse – particularly when experiencing withdrawal.

Because the two disorders are so similar, it’s possible for a person to be misdiagnosed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V) states that an accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia is not possible if it is known that the individual abuses drugs or alcohol. Even qualified medical professionals can have difficulties separating the two conditions. However, a thorough inventory of the individual’s medical history can help ensure an accurate diagnosis.

How Common Is Alcohol Abuse Among People With Schizophrenia?

Substance abuse, in general, is common among people with schizophrenia, from marijuana to nicotine to alcohol. Substances that alter the function of the nervous system and mood can trigger psychosis in people who have a high risk of schizophrenia. Alcohol is known to target the “reward system” part of the brain, the same part most affected by schizophrenia. This is why the two conditions are believed to fuel each other. As symptoms of schizophrenia and alcoholism develop, they may overlap, ultimately triggering psychotic episodes that include hallucinations.

Can Alcohol Cause Schizophrenia?

Many people with schizophrenia experience other co-occurring mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, but the most common is alcohol abuse. It is estimated that nearly half of the people diagnosed with AUD also meet the diagnostic criteria for a mental health disorder. This is because alcohol can be used as a way to self-medicate; it dulls the senses, temporarily providing relief from schizophrenia symptoms. However, this relief is short-lived because, ultimately, alcohol makes hallucinations worse.

If alcohol causes schizophrenia, it’s believed to do so among people who were already at high risk for it. This could be due to genetics and other family patterns. However, this data suggests a link at best, not concrete evidence that alcohol directly causes schizophrenia.

What Are Common Signs of Alcohol Abuse With Schizophrenia?

A person with both alcoholism and schizophrenia may experience the following symptoms:

  • Isolation
  • Failure to take basic care of themselves
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Increased aggression or violence
  • Missing school, work, or other appointments
  • Repeated hospital visits

How Is Co-Occurring Alcoholism and Schizophrenia Treated?

Because these conditions appear together so frequently, they both need to be treated at the same time. Both treatments may involve addiction treatment programs, medications, and therapy. Alcohol can exacerbate symptoms of schizophrenia, meaning it’s important to monitor an individual as they experience withdrawal. This may involve medical stabilizing for possible respiratory, circulatory, and neurological side effects. An individual withdrawing from alcohol may also experience nausea, anxiety, tremors, and possibly seizures.

Alcoholism and schizophrenia are two mental health disorders that can be very isolating. The person experiencing one or both of these disorders may feel a degree of shame about admitting they have a problem. This can make it challenging to get the help they need. If you recognize symptoms of alcohol abuse or schizophrenia in yourself or a loved one, it's essential to seek help. There is no shame in seeking help; silence only allows the problems to worsen. At Crownview Co-Occurring Institute, our licensed, professional, and compassionate staff will carefully evaluate your medical history for an accurate diagnosis. Once your condition has been assessed, we will work with you to formulate a treatment plan to help you live fully and productively. Treatment may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Don't suffer in silence; help is waiting. Call Crownview Co-Occurring Institute today at (760) 477-4754

Schizophrenia: The Misunderstood Disorder

Schizophrenia: The Misunderstood Disorder

Schizophrenia is arguably one of the most misunderstood mental health disorders and is often confused with other mental health conditions. Individuals often struggle with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses that require care but do not receive it due to surrounding stigmas. Such biased beliefs prevent society from accepting schizophrenia for what it is – a disease that is manageable with appropriate treatments or medications.

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder that impacts how individuals think, feel, and behave. Those who struggle with the disease seem to have lost touch with what is true in the world, resulting in frustration and concern for themselves and their loved ones. The symptoms that accompany schizophrenia create difficulty in participating in normal daily activities. However, with help through treatment and medication, they can attend school and work, accomplish independence, and build interpersonal relationships.

The Onset of Schizophrenia

Individuals with schizophrenia are typically diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 30 following the initial occurrence of psychosis. Schizophrenia is characterized and analyzed based on an array of symptoms. Schizophrenia only affects approximately 1% of the population — around 50 million individuals – making it difficult to understand entirely. Furthermore, it can be challenging to diagnose schizophrenia before the first episode of psychosis because the changes in thinking and mood are gradual.

The particular cause of schizophrenia is unknown, but research implies various factors may contribute to the risk of developing the illness, including:

  • Genetics: Though not always the case, schizophrenia sometimes runs in families, implying that different genes increase the risk of schizophrenia. There is no specific gene that causes the disorder, and it is not yet viable to use genetic material to determine who will develop the illness.
  • Environment: The connection between an individual’s genes and the characteristics of their habitat also appear necessary for schizophrenia to advance. Environmental aspects could include contact with viruses, malnourishment before birth, and medical complications during delivery.
  • Brain chemistry and structure: An imbalance in the brain's complex and interconnected chemical reactions concerning substances like dopamine and glutamate can impact the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia symptoms include three main categories: positive, negative, and cognitive.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms involve changes in how a person thinks, acts, and behaves and include:

  • Hallucinations: This includes seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or feeling things not there. Hearing voices is common for individuals with schizophrenia.
  • Delusions: Having strong beliefs that are irrational and untrue.
  • Thought disorder: Thinking in an unusual or illogical way, trouble organizing thoughts and speech, jumping from various topics when communicating, or creating words that have no meaning.
  • Movement disorder: Exhibiting abnormal body movements.

Negative Symptoms

Negative symptoms consist of loss of interest or pleasure in daily life, decreased motivation, isolation from society, and difficulty expressing emotions, which could look like:

  • Problems anticipating and feeling joy in everyday life
  • Trouble planning and committing to activities, such as grocery shopping
  • Avoiding social interaction or withdrawing from loved ones
  • Talking in a monotone voice and displaying limited facial expression

Cognitive Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms involve problems paying attention, concentrating, and retaining information. These symptoms can make it challenging to follow a conversation and learn new things. An individual’s level of cognitive functioning is a good predictor of how they function each day. Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Having difficulty using information directly after learning
  • Having trouble processing information to make choices
  • Having difficulty staying focused

How Schizophrenia Is Treated

Treatment for schizophrenia is customarily life-long and includes a combination of medications and therapy to help manage the symptoms and enhance the quality of life. Treatments include:


Upon the initial treatment for acute psychosis, second-generation antipsychotics (SGA) such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, or risperidone are proven effective in treating acute psychosis and reducing the risks of psychotic episodes in the future. Once the acute phase is manageable, switching to a first-generation antipsychotic is recommended to increase medication compliance and improve outcomes.


Even with successful medicinal treatment, many people with schizophrenia still struggle with thought processes, relationships, communication, motivation, and daily living. In such circumstances, psychotherapies can be essential. Many beneficial therapies have been proven successful in treating schizophrenia, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), art therapy, and drama therapy. These therapies counteract negative symptoms, improve insight, and help with relapse prevention. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has also been used but is limited.

Seeking Help for Schizophrenia

It can feel overwhelming when searching for help with mental health disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to help find mental health services in your area. In addition, you can find helpful information about treatment facilities that provide specialty care by using SAMHSA’s Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator.

There should be no shame in seeking help for those suffering from mental health disorders. Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental health illnesses. If you or a loved one are ready to begin your journey to an improved mental mindset, we want to help. Crownview Co-Occurring Institute in Oceanside, CA, offers psychiatric treatment for various levels of mental health disorders. Our individualized approach guarantees that each client receives quality care with successful results. At CCI, we provide treatment plans to meet the physical and emotional needs for recovery. We will support you from crisis to independence by providing a healing environment with a caring team of professionals ready to help you gain control of your life again. Let CCI help you with evidence-based treatment services for a successful long-term recovery. Call (760) 477-4754 today to learn about our effective treatment programs.