New Study Finds Genetic Link Between Marijuana Use and Schizophrenia

June 30, 2014

Lighthouse Network’s Dr. Karl Benzio Says Pot Use Doesn’t Relieve Stress but Rather Worsens Psychotic Conditions

Philadelphia—London researchers have identified a genetic link between schizophrenia and marijuana use, finding that genes that increase the risk of developing the disorder may also increase the chance for pot use.

Previous studies have found that marijuana use increases the risk of schizophrenia, and the new study does not disprove this fact, but rather also suggests that the association may be that a pre-disposition to schizophrenia can increase the likelihood someone will use pot.

Dr. Karl Benzio, founder, executive director and a psychiatrist at Lighthouse Network (, an addiction and mental health counseling helpline, said that schizophrenics who use marijuana to relieve their symptoms will trap themselves in a vicious cycle.

“One of the hallmarks of managing schizophrenia is minimizing stress,” Benzio said. “As stress rises, the chances of psychoses also rise. Often, people use marijuana to relieve the anxiety and depression that come with schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses. But unfortunately, this self medication actually worsens psychotic disorders, increases anxiety and depresses moods because pot is a hallucinogen. The way it interacts with the brain does nothing to alleviate these stressful feelings.

“Marijuana use also interferes with the emotional processing, decision-making and problem-solving areas of the brain,” he added, “which will worsen schizophrenia and interfere with the coping skills of schizophrenia. So if there is a link between this disorder and an increased desire to use drugs like pot, great care must be taken.”

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London studied more than 1,000 pot users and found that the link may be due to common genes. Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the world, and use is higher among people with schizophrenia than in the general population.

“Smoking marijuana also leads to a number of health hazards involving the respiratory system and cancer,” Benzio said. “Those with schizophrenia already have a shorter lifespan and have trouble with problem-solving, accessing care or even communicating their symptoms and needs. Therefore, mixing this disorder with pot use could be a deadly cocktail.”

Drug abuse that is coupled with psychotic disorders may seem overwhelming for those who have a friend or loved one struggling with addition, but help is available. And, Benzio adds, the most effective help for long-term recovery is a BioPsychoSpiritual approach using biblically based, Christ-centered principles combined with sound medical and psychological science, so those being treated do not return to the addiction lifestyle.

“The strongest foundation for stress management skills that are so critical to treating addictions is faith in God and the practical application of biblical principles,” Benzio added. “That’s why our helpline teaches and advocates a comprehensive approach that addresses all aspects of addictions and underlying issues.”

Lighthouse Network offers a free, 24-hour helpline, 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242) for those who are struggling and for their family and friends. Lighthouse Network also provides online resources for those concerned about a friend or a loved one. Visit

Benzio shares insights on various mental health issues in the one-minute daily radio feature “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” airing on approximately 425 radio stations across the country, including 200 stations in the American Family Radio Network. The purpose of the “Life Change” program is to bring scientific expertise and biblical principles together to examine some common daily struggles and help people successfully navigate life’s obstacles and enjoy fulfilled lives. For more information on “Life Change with Dr. Karl,” visit

Lighthouse Network works to guide struggling people through storms to achieve peace and find answers for those who have a hard time defining their problems. Lighthouse Network also offers the free, 24-hour Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

Lighthouse Network’s web site,,provides information to those struggling to find help for their addiction problems, as well as to family members searching for help for a loved one. Topics addressed include alcohol abuse, addictions, and other mental health or life management issues.

Lighthouse Network offers several resources for those struggling with addiction and their families, such as Stepping Stones, a free daily devotional for managing life’s stressors and storms and equipping readers with healthy decision-making skills. Visit to read the devotionals and sign up to receive them daily via email.

For more information on Lighthouse Network, visit or call the Lighthouse Life Change Helpline toll-free at 1-844-LIFE-CHANGE (1-844-543-3242).

To schedule interviews with Dr. Karl Benzio at Lighthouse Network, contact Deborah Hamilton at, 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096.

Lighthouse Network is a Christian-based, non-profit organization that offers an addiction and mental health counseling helpline providing treatment options and resources to equip people and organizations with the skills necessary to shine God’s glory to the world, stand strong on a solid foundation in the storms of their own lives, and provide guidance and safety to others experiencing stormy times, thus impacting their lives, their families and the world.

Dr. Karl Benzio, M.D. is the founder and executive director of Lighthouse Network. With a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering, Benzio went on to medical school and then specialized in psychiatry. His experiences include teaching pastors, ministry leaders and students counseling and conflict resolution skills in Uganda and Kenya; leading a behavioral health team into post-Hussein Iraq to equip health care specialists with treatment and assessment skills and successfully testifying for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives opposing legislation for Plan B contraception administration and for President George Bush’s Council on Bioethics regarding Right of Conscience. He is currently a member of Focus on the Family’s Physicians Resource Council. His specialties include Adolescents, Addictions, Decision-Making, Infusing Spirituality into Practical Treatment Modalities and the Ramifications of Decision-Making on Social Policy.


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