For many, using cannabis daily is way to get a jumpstart on the day or a relaxing wind down before bed, but could that daily toke result in something more frightening? Yes, according to a new study that reveals the earlier a person begins smoking pot, the higher their risk is of later developing a type of cannabis-induced psychosis.
Smoking Weed Can Lead to Cannabis-Induced Psychosis
Finnish researchers out of University of Oulu revealed the earlier someone begins smoking marijuana, the more likely they are to develop cannabis-induced psychosis, possibly because the teenage brain is more vulnerable. After 6,000 cannabis users were tracked from the age of 15 to 30, the study authors confirmed that cannabis can lead to psychosis symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, which may even drive some users to the point of suicide.
“Our findings are in line with the current views of heavy cannabis use, particularly when started at an early age, being linked to an increased risk of psychosis. Based on our results, it’s very important that we take notice of cannabis-using young people who report symptoms of psychosis,” explains study author Antti Mustonen in the report.
This isn’t the first-time research has linked psychosis with cannabis use. Going from being an occasional marijuana user to indulging every day increases the risk of psychosis by up to nearly 200 percent, said a 2017 Canadian study that found teen cannabis users reported paranoia, out-of-body experiences and odd thinking.
“They may be infrequent and thus not problematic for the adolescent, (but) when these experiences are reported continuously, year after year, then there’s an increased risk of a first psychotic episode or another psychiatric condition,” said researcher Josiane Bourque from the University of Montreal in the paper.
How Does Cannabis Cause Psychosis?
Over the years, the question of whether smoking weed can lead to cannabis-induced psychosis has been investigated many times, and produced mixed results. What does seem evident, is if cannabis is linked to mental disorders, a range of factors appears to play a part, such as how much and how often it is consumed, and genetic vulnerabilities.
For example, a 2017 study published in Psychiatry Research suggested that cannabis use can cause a temporary increase in psychotic-like states in people who are at high clinical risk for psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. However, it remains unclear whether it causes the disorders or triggers a pre-existing vulnerability – and because research has shown that severe mental illness like schizophrenia tends to arise in late teens and early adulthood, the same time young people tend to experiment with drugs, so the psychosis can be coincidental.
So, does cannabis cause psychosis in some people or just trigger it in those with a predisposition to mental illness? The answer isn’t black and white, but recent research presented at the 2017 World Psychiatric Association’s World Congress conference suggests that THC’s disruption of endocannabinoid signaling in the early teen brain may lead to stunted neurodevelopmental processes that involve the CB1 receptors, thereby impairing brain communication permanently. This disruption of information flow regulated by the endocannabinoid system has also been linked to psychosis, which according to some experts, is cause for concern among daily tokers.
“As physicians, we need to say clearly what is happening and what is not,” says Peter Falkai, a psychiatrist at the Munich Center for Neurosciences at Ludwig Maximilian University to Scientific American. “Looking into the data, clearly yes, the data show increasing risk of psychosis.”
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