Can Cannabis Cause Schizophrenia-Like Psychosis?

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The American Journal of Psychiatry issue, published on January 1, 2022, showed new research and an insightful editorial that helps understand if cannabis can cause schizophrenia-like psychosis.

The connection of cannabis and psychosis was first published by the psychiatrist Thomas Clouston from Scotland after touring the Cairo asylum in 1896. He observed that 40 out of the 253 patients had attributed insanity to hashish. Since then, studies have continued to document the association of cannabis with psychosis.

Cannabis and Mental Health

For example, 45,750 Swedish army soldiers in 1987 were asked questions about their drug use. They found that soldiers who used cannabis more than 50 times were about six times more likely to acquire schizophrenia within the next 15 years than those who had never used cannabis.

An analysis of multiple studies shows an average of two times increase in psychosis for normal cannabis users and four times increase for heavy users compared to non-users. Although, this is only a connection between schizophrenia and cannabis, which isn’t proof of causation.

Those who use high potency cannabis daily are five-fold more likely than non-users to develop psychotic disorders like schizophrenia-like psychosis.

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The Cannabis Connection with Psychosis

A Dutch survey discovered that people who prefer cannabis with a high CBD profile don’t experience such an increase in psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia-like psychosis, showing CBD’s protective nature.

The century-long question remains whether cannabis causes schizophrenia. Those with schizophrenia are a lot more likely to use cannabis, or perhaps there is a primarily genetic condition that increases the risk of schizophrenia and cannabis use.

An annual Canadian survey showed that 3,720 teenagers (aged 13 to 16) self-reported using cannabis and had experienced psychotic symptoms within the last four years.

The results displayed a strong connection with cannabis use frequency with an increased chance of psychotic symptoms and not vice versa. Cannabis use during any year was found to predict an increase in psychotic symptoms within a year and not vice versa.

Another new study consisting of 80,000 members of the general American population determined that people dealing with cannabis use disorder during the year before had a 2.5 times greater increase in being diagnosed with a schizophrenia-like psychosis.

Can Cannabis Cause Schizophrenia-Like Psychosis?

The recent editorial by D’Souza and Ganesh looks at the state of scientific research into the causality of cannabis and schizophrenia. They concluded that using complex genetic and counter objectified models to the current data shows that cannabis use is more likely to develop schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like psychosis than the reverse.

While researchers debate the details of the association and causality, many parents with children who have developed schizophrenia after regular cannabis use are more than convinced that cannabis caused their child’s psychosis.

The emotions associated with the devastating pain and loss allow them to jump to a conclusion before the more careful researchers.

Although the gap between scientifically proving and if cannabis causes schizophrenia-like psychosis is thinning. It doesn’t take much to caution youth, heavy cannabis users, and users of high THC with minimal CBD of the risks they take with their mental health.

Dean Mathers


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