America’s opioid epidemic has grown at an alarming rate and it is getting the national attention it deserves. Unfortunately, the negative effects of marijuana haven’t received the same scrutiny, and while it is not as dangerous as other drugs, Cannabis Induced Psychosis is on the rise and might possibly be a new epidemic on the horizon.
State and local officials have pushed through sweeping legalization changes in the past few years, making marijuana much more accessible. And though many believe pot is not a harmful narcotic, research has shown it has some possible mental health implications.
The strains that are being sold today are much more potent than people from previous generations have encountered. The “casual marijuana” smoking of the past few decades now can induce feelings of paranoia and even schizophrenia.
Cannabis Induced Psychosis Research
A recent study from Psychological Medicine backs this up and writer Yvette Brazier summed up some of the research in an article for Medical News Today.
“Marijuana use has been linked to symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia and delusional thinking, in up to 40 percent of users,” she wrote. “Earlier this year, scientists warned that young people who use cannabis could be putting themselves at risk of psychotic disorders.”
Anyone who has a history of psychosis could be putting himself or herself at risk for an episode (per the latest data). The study showed that people battling mental issues are more prone to use, possibly because of its association with relaxation and stress relief. But today’s more potent strains can pose a much bigger risk and the fact that they are all now regularly available should raise some red flags.
It’s quite common for people to use marijuana to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. But over time, relying on pot for relief can actually increase the symptoms of any of them, especially depression.
A better option would be therapy or antidepressant medication to manage depression and related issues. Unfortunately, some people begin using prescription medication and continue to use marijuana at the same time, proving each to be ineffective. It’s important to understand the relationship between marijuana and antidepressants.
Cannabis Experiments on Mice
For the record, Psychological Medicine isn’t the first outlet to produce these kinds of results. Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel conducted cannabis-related experiments on mice and saw strikingly similar results. They observed that younger “adolescent” mice with a susceptibility for developing schizophrenia gravitated toward THC (the primary ingredient of marijuana) and developed addictive habits.
This led the scientists to surmise that any individual with a family history of mental illness should be cautious around pot.
“Our research demonstrates that cannabis has a differential risk on susceptible versus non-susceptible individuals,” TAU psychiatrist Dr. Ran Barzilay revealed. “In other words, young people with a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia – those who have psychiatric disorders in their families – should bear in mind that they’re playing with fire if they smoke pot during adolescence.”
We want to clearly articulate that we are not “anti-marijuana,” and this is not intended to be a political statement or discount the medicinal effects that many users have found so helpful. We prefer that our readers draw their own conclusions, but still feel it’s important to provide scientific facts in the process.
Additional Research Data on Cannabis and Mental Health
We’ve gathered some additional research data which seems to support the argument that those who have a history of mental illness (or are genetically predisposed) may be putting themselves at risk when they use cannabis.
Let’s start with data gathered from Stanford University. Stanford is a very reputable school known for conducting groundbreaking (unbiased) studies. Their website recently published an interview with researcher Robert MacCoun, PhD, who had this to say about the topic…
There is growing evidence that heavy marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of Cannabis Induced Psychosis. We don’t know if it is a true cause-and-effect relationship; let’s hope it is not. But I think the biggest health threat is dependence, which for marijuana is something like getting stuck in the La Brea tar pits — your world just gets smaller and smaller as you get more dysfunctional.
Harvard University Marijuana Research
Over on the east coast, professors at Harvard University are echoing the same thing; putting a strong emphasis on the dangers young users may face.
Contributor Ann McDonald wrote a lengthy piece on the Harvard Medical School site, sharing statistics their researchers put together after monitoring 2,000 local teenagers. That data showed that young people who smoked marijuana at least five times were twice as likely to have developed a psychosis over the next 10 years than those who did not.
Other data points showed that the young smokers most at risk were the ones who have a parent or sibling suffering from a psychotic disorder. It also showed that “heavy teenage users” (smoking more than 50 times per week) were six times as likely to develop some type of mental illness.
“The teenage brain is still a work in progress,” McDonald wrote. “Between the teen years and the mid-20s, areas of the brain responsible for judgment and problem solving are still making connections with the emotional centers of the brain. Smoking marijuana may derail this process and so increase a young person’s vulnerability to psychotic thinking.”
The data goes much further than that, and interestingly enough, scientists from the around the world have also conducted thorough research on this topic and yielded very similar results. Sweden, for example, has published lengthy journals on the correlation between cannabis and schizophrenia, complete with bar graphs and scientific testimonials.
It is always important to keep an open mind and understand the facts before embracing a substance you’re about to put into your body. And if you are a marijuana user and are noticing psychotic symptoms begin to emerge, we want you to understand that you are not alone and help is always available.
Cannabis Induced Psychosis is very real and is often scary for those who experience it.
If marijuana use leads to addiction, it might be necessary to seek dual diagnosis treatment to overcome the issues brought on by marijuana use and mental health problems combined.
Dr. Elena Kapustina found her true calling and completed her PsyD in Clinical Psychology after earning her MBA and spending years working as the CFO for major corporations. She founded Iris Healing to holistically work with dual diagnosis patients in order to create a more sustainable recovery. From managing 1,000 employees to creating a top of the line treatment center, Dr. Kapustina harnesses her passion to create positive experiences for others.