A psychotic experience (psychosis) is characterized by hallucinations, delusions and inconsistent behavior. People who suffer from psychosis are unable to distinguish between psychotic symptoms and real-life situations. Although psychosis is frequently believed to be a symptom of schizophrenia, it can be indicative of other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder and chronic depression. Psychosis may also be triggered by Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors and cerebrovascular accident (stroke), or due to the effect of certain medicines, alcohol and drugs.
For several decades, it has been believed that using cannabis can cause psychotic symptoms. Although various studies in the past have attempted to investigate the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis, the results have been largely inconclusive. Findings from a new study published in the journal Addiction in April 2017 show that the risk of developing psychosis due to consumption of cannabis is much lower than what has been previously believed.
Past research from the University of Bristol has established that over 23,000 people would need to stop using cannabis to prevent one case of schizophrenia or psychosis. A population-level extension of such a finding means that an augmented risk of psychosis from cannabis use has a low probability.
Link between cannabis and psychosis
Ian Hamilton, a mental health lecturer in the department of health sciences at the University of York and author of the study, explains that from the time cannabis gained popularity in the 1960s, there has been ongoing research to investigate the link between the drug and psychotic disorders. Most of these researches are from a time period when cannabis comprised lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), resulting in a lower potency. These days, higher levels of THC are found in cannabis, making it a high potency drug.
According to Hamilton, higher potency cannabis comprises less cannabidiol (CBD), which may play a protective role in preventing disorders, such as psychosis. However, psychotic symptoms can be aggravated by higher levels of THC. He adds that his study evaluated both high and low level potency of cannabis, but further investigation is needed in cases of high potency cannabis to establish or disprove its association with psychosis in the current time period. Hamilton notes that although findings suggest that it is rare for vulnerable people to develop mental health issues due to cannabis use, most of the research he relied on for his study goes back several decades.
The study did establish, however, that if individuals are heavy users of high-potency cannabis, they have a higher chance of experiencing mental health issues, even if such cases are relatively fewer. According to the findings, consumption of cannabis by patients already diagnosed with schizophrenia leads to a worsening of their symptoms. Combining cannabis with tobacco was considered the greatest health hazard, especially for youngsters, since it exposes them to tobacco addiction at an early age. This increases their risk of developing problems such as cancer, infection and other medical problems.
Regulating cannabis use will ensure increased awareness on consumption
As per Hamilton, the study’s findings suggest that prohibiting cannabis will have a low impact on mental health. He emphasizes that regulating marijuana and making it lawful will ensure the cannabis products are subject to quality control. This will also increase awareness among users on important information regarding cannabis consumption such as its potency, which is usually discovered much later in the current unregulated scenario. Although it has been difficult to publicly communicate the association between cannabis use and psychosis, regulating the drug will favorably impact the greatest health hazard which arises due to its combined use with tobacco.
Although evidence continues to emerge regarding the therapeutic effects of cannabis, much of it is still inconclusive. Long-term marijuana use leads to various mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. It is advisable to seek help at the earliest if someone known to you is addicted to the drug. The California Drug Addiction Helpline can provide information on specialized treatment options offered by the best drug rehab in California. You may call our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1946 or chat online with our specialists to know more about rehab facilities in California.