USING EVIDENCE TALK ABOUT CANNABIS

• While some studies point to a link between cannabis use and
an increased risk of symptoms associated with schizophrenia
(Fergusson, Horwood, & Ridder, 2005; Zammit, Allebeck, Andreasson,
Lundberg, & Lewis, 2002), a recent study concluded that
cannabis use by itself did not increase the risk of schizophrenia
(Proal et al., 2014). Scientists have repeatedly noted the difficulty
of establishing causality in studies about cannabis use and mental
illness (Moore et al., 2007; Volkow et al., 2014). This means
that while people who develop schizophrenia may have previously
used cannabis, it is difficult to unequivocally state that this
use is what caused them to develop the condition (Pierre, 2011).
• If cannabis use caused schizophrenia, we would expect to see
increases in incidence as rates of cannabis use have increased,
but this trend has not been observed (Hall, 2014). One UKbased
study reported that, given that cannabis use has increased
fourfold among the UK population between the early 1970s and
2002, there should be a corresponding 29% increase in cases
of schizophrenia among men, and 12% increase among women
between 1990 and 2010 (Hickman et al., 2007). Instead, during
this time period (1996-2005), it was found that annual cases of
schizophrenia in the UK were either stable or declining (Frisher
et al., 2009). These findings strongly suggest that cannabis use
does not cause schizophrenia.
• Scientific research has suggested that young people who are
genetically predisposed to schizophrenia may have their risk of
developing this condition increased by using cannabis (Caspi
et al., 2005). However, scientific findings are inconsistent on the
magnitude of risk posed by cannabis use, as well as the frequency
of use that is associated with mental illness (Andréasson,
Engström, Allebeck, & Rydberg, 1987; Caspi et al., 2005; Moore
et al., 2007).

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