Published: Fri, March 22, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Strong marijuana boosts risk of psychotic episodes say researchers

Strong marijuana boosts risk of psychotic episodes say researchers

Actually, not necessarily. New research shows daily marijuana users, especially those who use high-potency weed, may be three times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia, than non-users.

The study found that those who used pot daily were three times more likely to have a psychotic episode compared with someone who never used the drug, writes NPR, one of dozens of media outlets to report on the study.

The researchers then took over 900 patients with psychosis and compared them to a control group of healthy people, collecting information about the participants' history of cannabis use and the use of other drugs.

Patients were twice as likely to report using skunk compared to healthy people, with nearly 40 percent of the patients admitting to using high-potency cannabis.

A recently-unveiled study claims that daily marijuana consumption and the rise of stronger pot strands increase the likelihood of a psychotic episode. High potency strains are those with THC concentration above 10 percent.

"This fact undermines the theory that cannabis exposure is a direct cause of psychosis in otherwise non-predisposed subjects, and instead indicates that those most likely to express psychotic symptoms probably possess a predisposition to both cannabis use and psychosis", Armentano said. In London, 2 in 10 cases were linked to daily use, while 3 in 10 were linked to high-potency use.

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"In European cities where high-potency cannabis is widely available, a significant proportion of new cases of psychosis are associated with daily cannabis use and high-potency cannabis", Di Forti said.

Smoking weak cannabis is far less likely to lead to psychosis, although there are cases when it could be the trigger that pushes somebody into mental illness if they are already experiencing difficulties, researchers said.

If high-potency marijuana was no longer available, researchers predicted the incidence of psychosis in Amsterdam would be slashed in half. Using published data on levels of delta-6-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they estimated cannabis potency for the types of cannabis used by participants, and classified types as either high potency (over 10% THC) or low potency (under 10% THC). The estimates on potency also do not include the proportion of cannabidiol (CBD), another important component of cannabis.

Many countries - including most recently Canada - have legalized or decriminalized cannabis use, leading to some concerns about increased use and its potential harm.

And they said that even medicinal cannabis oil - available in the United Kingdom for a very limited number of people - should come with a warning of psychosis as a possible side effect.

However, the study doesn't prove causality, cautions Dr. Diana Martinez, a psychiatrist and addiction researcher at Columbia University. Observational studies and biological evidence support a causal link between cannabis use and psychosis, but until now, it has been unclear whether, at a population level, patterns of cannabis use influence rates of psychosis. They should be aware that using high-potency cannabis comes with a risk, she says.

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