June 26, 2005

Adolescents, Cannabis, & Psychosis

Cannabis Is A Psychosis Time Bomb

We've covered the topic of cannabis (marijuana) and its relation to psychosis many times in the past. "Medical research has long confirmed that cannabis, the most widely used illicit drug in the world, is not as safe as occasional users believe." However, recently, psychiatrists have discovered that the age at which people begin smoking the drug plays a crucial role in the development of psychosis:

In 2002 a large scale study of more than 50,000 men conscripted into the Swedish army between 1969 and 1970 suggested that those who had used cannabis more than 50 times before they were 18 had an almost seven-fold [700%] increased risk of developing schizophrenia in later life. A New Zealand study, published at the same time, showed that those who started using cannabis by the time they were 15 [years old] had a four-fold increase in the risk of developing schizophrenia-like illness by the age of 26. The areas of the adolescent brain associated with motivation, impulsivity and addiction are still rapidly developing, which may mean that teenagers are more vulnerable to the addictive and psychotic actions of drugs they take at what is a crucial stage in neural development.

It is important to note that regardless of the age you are, "smoking (cannabis) is associated with a two-fold increase in later schizophrenia." In addition, smoking cannabis as an adolescent increases this risk significantly.

Some may wonder that if cannabis does indeed cause psychosis, why has the incidence of schizophrenia remained stable (despite the "steadily increasing rates of use over past decades") ? "Well, if it's cannabis use in early adolescence that is associated with the strongest schizophrenic effect, then we may be sitting on a time bomb that will explode as young users grow up into psychotic adults."

Trends indicate that cannabis use under the age of 16 became prevalent in the early 1990s. One would therefore predict an increase in rates of schizophrenia in the general population over the next 10 years.

Though not everyone that uses cannabis will develop schizophrenia, at the very least, using it will increase your risk of developing psychosis.

Source:The Times of London, Educational Supplement.

More information: Schizophrenia and Marijuana


Having personally delt with a youth age 15-16 who did smoke pot.. the results - psychosis.
I cannot begin to tell you the horrors he went through and as a family what our experiences were and are. As of Jan. this year he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. I do believe the amount of pot he smoked played a crucial role in his medical Condition. We were told that yes he may have later in life ended up with the disease, but as a result of smoking pot it unveiled the illness earlier. I personally would like to see more action taken to prevent the usage of pot.
Michelle, Mother of 17 year old who has been newly diagnosed.

Posted by: Michelle at July 6, 2005 01:10 PM

I'd like to add something here. I'm involved in the mental health profession. Both in clinical psychology as well as social research. In my experience, by far the most common type of patient seen in acute psychiatric wards are undoubtably those with substance induced psychosis. They are brought in on a daily basis!

While it is true that many drugs can bring about a psychotic episode, marijuana is by far the most accessible. It is also true that people with a predisposition to schizophrenia (from childhood trauma or not) can only be diagnosed after the first psychotic episode (paranoid type). After experiencing the first psychotic episode, the likelihood of a recurrent episode increases drastically.

So whether other factors such as childhood trauma or comorbid use of other drugs were the real instigators of schizophrenia in that study is a moot point. The comparison between the effects of drugs and psychosis correlate on a number of levels. For example, phenomenological researchers (and in my own experience) describe the effects of drugs as 'loosening associations', and a 'disintegration of ego boundaries'. Not surprisingly, this is the same presentation in schizophrenia. You will even find the same dopaminalergic effects on a neurological level.
There is already ample evidence that marijuana itself produces psychosis, and the link between psychosis and schizophrenia is clear. The study is not a measure of 'if', but 'to what degree'.

Finally, the use of a random sample does not, contrary to your argument, decrease validity.

Just saying...

Posted by: cheyne at August 20, 2006 06:23 AM

As a mother of a son who has "schizophrenia" as a result of smoking cannabis I have concerns that the inacceptance of this as a cause may hinder research into the long term outlook for the sufferers. Ten years of misery have been endured by my son and us (his family) due to frequent psychosis triggered by the smoking of cannabis. He finally accepted this as the cause and now does not touch the stuff. However he is told he is likely to require medication for life in order to have a normal life. Over the period I have become increasingly aware of the emotive responses and denials by the cannabis takers. I feel that there must be others out there who are exasperated by the debate on whether cannabis causes mental illness and are in a position of actually dealing with the consequences. I would like some research on the long term prospects for those who have become victims and whether the resultant illness is actually "schizophrenia". I would be pleased to know of any such information.

Posted by: Julianne at September 18, 2006 09:02 AM

Marijuana helps me live life.

Posted by: FRANK at December 5, 2006 06:03 AM

I'm a 25 year old male who grew up in a great family home, parents still married to this day...very normal loving childhood. I have had depression problems since I was 13 to 14 in which my parents were of great support and wanted to help. The first time I smoked marijuana, I was 18. I've been on high doses of depression medication of every kind you can find, since the age of 16. The only thing that actually helps my depression to this day is marijuana. I've been smoking it every day for the past 4 years. It's the only thing that KEEPS me sane and as I feel, on a normal human being level. I don't even do it to "get high." I don't view it as a fun activity for me and my friends. 90% of the time I do it by myself. I do it because it levels my head...keeps me at peace with myself and the world, and still allows me to function properly with day to day responsibilities. When it comes down to my uncontrollable suicidal and worthlessness thoughts, for my parents sake, I'm going to continue to smoke bud so they won't have to see themselves out-live their son. Not saying that it can't cause schizophrenia, or that it is good for you, but sometimes people have to do things in order to get by.

Posted by: Dave at March 9, 2007 12:58 PM

I too have a teenaged son who developed severe psychosis after using pot for an unknown period of time, probably several months. He too said it made him feel better when he smoked it. I have read that the pot that's out there today is 10 times stronger than 20 years ago, and so the psychosis-inducing chemicals are present in larger doses than ever before. But teens see other teens smoking it with no ill effects, and so they assume they can do the same. Where is the funding needed to research these issues and protect our children from such a horrible fate? Paranoid delusions and hallucinations are about the worst thing that a person can endure -- never knowing what's real and what isn't -- destroying all of one's relationships and hopes for a career or family along with one's personality. PLEASE get the word out that marijuana can destroy lives and please do whatever you can to help find the cure for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses!

Posted by: Julie at July 31, 2007 09:33 AM

Yes cannabus has turned my son into a lunatic and he is a danger to himself and others. He was a lovely child. Whatever issues you do have, cannabis can magnify them ond stops you being able to work through all the issues we need to in order to grow up. Anyone who supplies drugs to a ///younger/// person must face stiffer penalties. Ursula

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