Investigating repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on cannabis use and cognition in people with schizophrenia

Karolina Kozak Bidzinski, Darby J.E. Lowe, Marcos Sanches, Maryam Sorkhou, Isabelle Boileau, Michael Kiang, Daniel M. Blumberger, Gary Remington, Clement Ma, David J. Castle, Rachel A. Rabin, Tony P. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Cannabis use disorder (CUD) occurs at high rates in schizophrenia, which negatively impacts its clinical prognosis. These patients have greater difficulty quitting cannabis which may reflect putative deficits in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a potential target for treatment development. We examined the effects of active versus sham high-frequency (20-Hz) repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on cannabis use in outpatients with schizophrenia and CUD. Secondary outcomes included cannabis craving/withdrawal, psychiatric symptoms, cognition and tobacco use. Twenty-four outpatients with schizophrenia and CUD were enrolled in a preliminary double-blind, sham-controlled randomized trial. Nineteen participants were randomized to receive active (n = 9) or sham (n = 10) rTMS (20-Hz) applied bilaterally to the DLPFC 5x/week for 4 weeks. Cannabis use was monitored twice weekly. A cognitive battery was administered pre- and post-treatment. rTMS was safe and well-tolerated with high treatment retention (~90%). Contrast estimates suggested greater reduction in self-reported cannabis use (measured in grams/day) in the active versus sham group (Estimate = 0.33, p = 0.21; Cohen’s d = 0.72), suggesting a clinically relevant effect of rTMS. A trend toward greater reduction in craving (Estimate = 3.92, p = 0.06), and significant reductions in PANSS positive (Estimate = 2.42, p = 0.02) and total (Estimate = 5.03, p = 0.02) symptom scores were found in the active versus sham group. Active rTMS also improved attention (Estimate = 6.58, p < 0.05), and suppressed increased tobacco use that was associated with cannabis reductions (Treatment x Time: p = 0.01). Our preliminary findings suggest that rTMS to the DLPFC is safe and potentially efficacious for treating CUD in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes


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