What can we learn about schizophrenia from studying the human model, drug-induced psychosis?

Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2013 Oct;162B(7):661-70. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.b.32177.


When drug-induced psychoses were first identified in the mid-20th century, schizophrenia was considered a discrete disease with a likely genetic cause. Consequently, drug-induced psychoses were not considered central to understanding schizophrenia as they were thought to be phenocopies rather than examples of the illness secondary to a particular known cause. However, now that we know that schizophrenia is a clinical syndrome with multiple component causes, then it is clear that the drug-induced psychoses have much to teach us. This article shows how the major neuropharmacological theories of schizophrenia have their origins in studies of the effects of drugs of abuse. Research into the effects of LSD initiated the serotonergic model; amphetamines the dopamine hypothesis, PCP and ketamine the glutamatergic hypothesis, while most recently the effects of cannabis have provoked interest in the role of endocannabinoids in schizophrenia. None of these models account for the complete picture of schizophrenia; rather the various drug models mimic different aspects of the illness. Determining the different molecular effects of those drugs whose pharmacological effects do and do not mimic the various aspects of schizophrenia has much to teach us concerning the pathogenesis of the illness.

Keywords: LSD; amphetamines; psychosis; schizophrenia; substances.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Glutamates / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Psychoses, Substance-Induced / pathology*
  • Schizophrenia / pathology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism


  • Endocannabinoids
  • Glutamates
  • Serotonin