Updated on April 1, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Schizoaffective disorder shares symptoms with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These include elevated moods, anger, fatigue, depression or anxiety, social withdrawal and more. Fortunately, there’s medical marijuana for schizoaffective disorder, and research has already shown the herb helps with these and other symptoms of mood disorders.
Schizoaffective disorder is a type of mental health disorder. It’s chronic and is characterized mostly by schizophrenia symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.
Physicians classify the condition with other mood disorders, including depression and mania.
The National Alliance on Mental Health’s content on bipolar disorder and schizophrenia offers various resources that are overlapping for schizoaffective disorder. Since this disorder isn’t studied as well as the other two disorders, researchers borrow interventions for schizoaffective disorder from the other two disorders’ treatment approaches.
Many individuals with schizoaffective disorder often receive an incorrect diagnosis at first for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder since it shares similar symptoms with these and other mental health conditions.
Around 0.3 percent of the population has schizoaffective disorder. Both men and women get the condition at the same rate, but men tend to develop the condition at an earlier age. Medication and therapy can help manage the disorder effectively. Co-occurring substance use disorders require integrated treatment.
Symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can vary between patients. The course of the condition often features cycles of severe symptoms followed by some improvement for a period with less severe symptoms.
Symptoms and signs of schizoaffective disorder also depend on the type you have — bipolar or depressive type. They may include:
There isn’t a whole lot known about the genetics of the disorder. Some research suggests variations in specific genes, all with a small effect, mixed to increase the risk of a person developing the disorder. There could also be genetic variations with more prominent effects in certain affected people or families, however, in the general population, these variants are rare, and it’s not clear exactly which genes are involved.
The researched genes as potential contributors to schizoaffective disorder have different functions in the brain. They include some that regulate the daily circadian rhythms of the body like the sleep-wake cycle and others that help control migration or movement of nerve cells during the development of the brain. Still, others send and receive chemical brain signals.
Several genes that researchers have linked with the risk of the disorder give instructions for making sections of a receptor for gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that sends the brain signals. The central role of GABA is to keep the brain from becoming overloaded with too many signals.
Many of the schizoaffective disorder-associated genetic variations also appear to be connected with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Others seem more specific to schizoaffective disorder. But, it’s challenging to research the genetics of the condition since it has such substantial overlap with these other two mental health disorders.
In some research, experts study individuals with schizoaffective disorder in the same group as others with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Therefore it can be hard to figure out which genetic variations influence each these diagnoses.
There are two types of this condition, and they both cause some symptoms similar to those of schizophrenia. These two types are:
The complications for individuals with this condition are similar to those for major mood disorders and schizophrenia. These are:
There’s little evidence that supports the management of the depression in the bipolar type of schizoaffective disorder. It can be a daunting task for doctors to manage bipolar depression. Many individuals with bipolar spend 80 percent of their time in the depressive stage of the condition, according to research published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. In opposition with full-blown mania, individuals and family members often don’t recognize bipolar depression, which can interfere with diagnosing the disorder early and treating it.
Treatment for bipolar depression is quite challenging since there are only a few medicines approved for the condition. Some evidence supports schizoaffective depression poses a worse outcome than nonpsychotic and psychotic depression.
Statistics reported by Epocrates show:
In 1933, Jacob Kasanin coined the term “schizoaffective psychosis.” He recognized in some individuals a co-occurrence of symptoms that suggested both a mood disorder and schizophrenia.
Kasanin described individuals with schizoaffective disorder, when compared to those with schizophrenia, as experiencing:
Consistent with this formulation, the initial edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1952 and the second one in 1968 regarded schizoaffective disorder as a subtype of schizophrenia.
The treatments for this condition vary. Medications doctors could prescribe include:
Some side effects of antipsychotics include:
Some side effects of antidepressants include:
Some side effects of mood stabilizers include:
Therapy might be beneficial and help with the management of your symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. Through therapy, you’ll learn ways to improve relationships and solve problems. All sessions will apply to real-life circumstances. You might learn how to manage your living situation and finances or skills to find a career and be successful at it.
Another option for patients is group therapy. Group therapy can help you learn how to communicate with other people and increase your social interaction effectively. It can also help you manage your symptoms when they can’t be entirely resolved with medicine alone.
Doctors have recently gained a whole range of new tools for treating schizophrenia, from more long-acting injectables and new first-line antipsychotics to increasing knowledge regarding the genetics behind schizophrenia.
There have been a couple of genetic markers showing promise that seem like they could lead to the same type of brain impairment that’s in schizophrenia.
Researchers at the University of Wollongong first found CBD could offer new types of symptom relief for patients with schizophrenia by analyzing what science has uncovered about the cannabinoid so far. To get an understanding of the impact CBD has on schizophrenia-related cognitive function, the researchers conducted a thorough review of 27 remaining studies on the cannabinoid and found some remarkable new understandings about the potential therapeutic value of the chemical.
One of the researchers commented in a release that CBD could offer direct neurological support for a whole range of conditions that affect the brain from dementia to schizophrenia. They said they found CBD doesn’t just improve memory and learning in healthy brains, but it might improve aspects of memory and learning in conditions linked with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease, as well as neuro-inflammatory and neurological disorders like:
Research suggests CBD is neuroprotective and could decrease cognitive impairment linked with the use of THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.
The researchers conducted a test using a rat model to see the potential CBD has for relieving cognitive schizophrenia symptoms. They found that regular use of CBD seemed to reduce social withdrawal and cognitive deficits that tend to afflict people with schizophrenia, which the researchers simulated in the rats through the use of prenatal poly I:C infection. They found CBD could restore working memory and recognition to normal levels as well as social behavior.
According to other research, CBD also reduces brain damage linked with ischemic or neurodegenerative conditions. CBD also has positive effects on reducing psychotic-, depressive- and anxiety-like behaviors. Also, CBD facilitates neurogenesis and affects synaptic plasticity.
Medical marijuana treatment can cause some side effects, however, including:
Some studies show CBD eases cognitive symptoms in schizophrenia. The studies found “chronic” CBD use reduces cognitive deficits and social withdrawal in individuals with schizophrenia.
Schizoaffective disorder can bring on various moods and behavioral and psychological symptoms such as:
By using medical cannabis for schizoaffective disorder, individuals can help to relieve these symptoms.
As CBD eased symptoms in patients in one study, it also boosted their anandamide levels. This is a molecule that helps reduce stress and ease anxiety.
Individuals with schizoaffective disorder will likely want to avoid certain types of medical cannabis plant that are high in THC since it can stimulate a mind that’s already excited. CBD, however, is non-psychoactive and a potent antipsychotic. CBD also counteracts THC’s effects. Try strains high in CBD and low in THC.
Some good marijuana strains for schizoaffective disorder to start with include:
The basic principle for medical weed dosage is to start slow with low doses and work your way up to taking more until you achieve the effect you’re looking for. This is because you don’t feel the herb’s effects immediately. Staring low and going slow allows you to accommodate for the various experiences you might have, depending on the strain and method of use.
With that said, some methods of administering cannabis for schizoaffective disorder include:
Inhalation allows you to adjust your dose easily to get the most benefit since its effects are almost instant. You take medical pot into your lungs where it quickly absorbs into your bloodstream through your capillaries.
Some examples of inhalation methods are smoking — whether it’s a joint, bong or pipe — or vaporizing, also called vaping.
Many individuals prefer oral administration of the herb. However, that absorption is slower when you take medical cannabis orally, with lower, more delayed peak of THC and decreased bioavailability of CBD and THC because of extensive digestive tract metabolism.
Examples include edibles, beverages and tinctures.
You apply topicals directly to your skin which absorbs the medicine into your body.
Examples include creams, lotions and cannabis oil.
To learn more about the different strains and methods of consumption of medical cannabis for schizoaffective disorder or to search for a qualified medical cannabis doctor and dispensary, book your appointment for a consultation here at MarijuanaDoctors.com. Our doctors are pre-screened and licensed to provide you with a recommendation for medical weed. They’ll answer any questions you have and help you tailor a medical marijuana treatment plan that’s right for you.