The Paradoxical Psychological Effects of Cannabis in Individuals with Schizophrenia, Mood, and Anxiety Disorders

Poster: The Paradoxical Psychological Effects of Cannabis in Individuals with Schizophrenia, Mood, and Anxiety Disorders

Authors: Jeffrey Duong, MA, and Kristine M. Jacquin, PhD, Fielding Graduate University

Weed, from hand-rolled joints to luxe edibles, is fast leaving the realm of “cool” and entering the land of “everyday normal.” Then there’s also medical cannabis, or medical marijuana (MMJ), which remains shrouded in a cloud of claims that range from 100% unfounded (prevents Alzheimer’s disease)1 to largely accepted (high-quality evidence supports use of marijuana for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis)2.

As research continues to prove and disprove MMJ theories, America is simultaneously continuing to legalize MMJ. As of May 18, 2021, 36 states and 4 territories allow for the medical use of cannabis products.3

One area where the current MMJ research literature falls short concerns cannabis effects in individuals with schizophrenia, mood, and anxiety disorders. That’s according to Jeffrey Duong, MA, and Kristine M. Jacquin, PhD, both of Fielding Graduate University. Their combined observation produced the poster The Paradoxical Psychological Effects of Cannabis in Individuals with Schizophrenia, Mood, and Anxiety Disorders. The poster was presented during APA 2021.

“The United States is experiencing changes in cannabis policies with more states legalizing the use of recreational cannabis. Studying the effects of cannabis use in people with psychological disorders is of vital importance because of the vulnerability in these populations and the potentially serious consequences of exacerbating symptoms inherent in these disorders,” explained Duong in his poster recap via video.

And according to the poster, prior research does indeed point to “potentially serious consequences” linked to cannabis use by those with certain psychological disorders. The poster also cites multiple conflicting research findings. For example, a meta-analysis suggests that those with schizophrenia who use cannabis displayed superior cognitive abilities when compared with non-users. Although, the poster cites additional research that says these superior cognitive abilities likely existed prior to cannabis use.

The clinical implications of these contradictions, the poster concludes, is that more research is needed to better understand the effects of cannabis in people with schizophrenia, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. The poster also addresses a secondary research benefit: “In addition, gaining more information about beneficial effects of cannabis may provide pharmacotherapeutic insights that help individuals with psychiatric disorders assess the cost-benefit ratio of their cannabis usage.”

  1. Alzheimer Society. Cannabis and the Treatment of Dementia. https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/how-can-i-treat-dementia/cannabis-treatment-dementia
  2. Medical Marijuana 2020. What Medical Research Says. https://www.medicalmarijuana2020.com/what-medical-research-says

  3. National Conference of State Legislatures. State Medical Marijuana Laws; 7/14/2021.
    Available at https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx