Marijuana may help preserve the mental abilities of patients with schizophrenia, according to new research out of Canada.
These results are consistent with previous findings showing that cannabis abuse is associated with fewer negative symptoms and better cognitive functioning in schizophrenia.
A team of investigators led by Stephane Potvin, Ph.D of the University of Montreal School of Medicine studied a group of 28 schizophrenia patients – 14 with a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder and 14 without – and 21 healthy subjects.
After conducting a variety of brain scans and cognitive assessments, they found that patients who used cannabis exhibited better emotional memory, visual-spatial abilities and brain activation – compared with non-users.
Though the new findings seem to lend support to the use of cannabis as a treatment for schizophrenia, the authors caution that there other possibilities.
For example, they suggest that schizophrenics may smoke cannabis to enhance pleasurable memories and cope with negative ones. Another explanation may be that higher functioning schizophrenics are more likely to use cannabis.
Chemicals in marijuana have also been shown to impair memory in studies involving healthy rats, according to the authors.
Even still, they admit their latest findings only add to the “growing literature showing that some key functions (negative symptoms, social skills, cognition) are preserved” in cannabis-using schizophrenics.
The authors conclude that further research is necessary in order to confirm whether cannabis is directly responsible for improvements in patients with schizophrenia.
The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Fonds de Recherche en Santé du Québec