High-Potency Marijuana Use Linked with Psychosis

High-Potency Marijuana Use Linked with Psychosis

High-Potency Marijuana Use Linked with Psychosis


Psychosis is characterized by an impaired relationship with reality. It’s a symptom of serious mental disorders. People who are experiencing psychosis may have either hallucinations or delusions.

Someone living with symptoms of psychosis share similar experience with anyone suffering bipolar disorder including:

  • hallucinations, seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • delusions, believing something is true that isn’t.

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Symptoms of psychosis include:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • depressed mood
  • sleeping too muchor not enough
  • anxiety
  • suspiciousness
  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • disorganized speech, such as switching topics erratically
  • depression
  • suicidal thoughts or actions

And people who use marijuana on a daily basis may be at increased risk for developing psychosis, particularly if they use high-potency marijuana, a new study from Europe suggests.

According to the authors of the study, published Dec. 17 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, the average tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level of cannabis in the United States increased from 3.5 percent in 1994 to 12.3 percent in 2012.

A previous research also found that young people who started using cannabis when the average national potency was higher were more likely to go on to develop one or more symptoms of cannabis use disorder within a year of use.

While on the new study, it analyzed information from more than 1,200 people without psychosis living in 10 European cities and one city in Brazil, and compared them with 900 people living in those same cities who were diagnosed for the first time with psychosis.

“As the legal status of cannabis changes in many countries and states, and as we consider the medicinal properties of some types of cannabis, it is of vital public health importance that we also consider the potential adverse effects that are associated with daily cannabis use, especially high-potency varieties,” lead study author Dr. Marta Di Forti, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, & Neuroscience at King’s College London, said in a statement.

Still, it’s important to note that the study found only an association, and cannot prove that using marijuana actually causes psychosis. The study was published on (March 19) in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.

Link Between Marijuana and Psychosis

There are certain illnesses that cause psychosis, however. There are also triggers like drug use, lack of sleep, and other environmental factors. In addition, certain situations can lead to specific types of psychosis developing.

Previous studies have suggested a link between heavy marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis. But these studies couldn’t determine how this link affected rates of psychosis in the general population.

In the new study, the researchers found that about 30 percent of patients with psychosis reported daily marijuana use, compared with just 7 percent of controls (people without psychosis); and 37 percent of patients reported high-potency marijuana use, compared with 19 percent of controls.

The study also found that the rate of cannabis use among the controls in a given location was linked with the rate of psychosis in that location. So the more people who used the drug daily; and the more who used high-potency marijuana, the higher the rate of psychosis.

The researchers estimate that, overall, about one in five new cases (20 percent) of psychosis across the 11 study cities may be linked to daily marijuana use; and one in 10 new cases of psychosis (12 percent) may be linked to the use of high-potency marijuana.

Still, the new study cannot rule out “reverse causation,” meaning it could be that people with psychosis are more likely to use marijuana than people without the mental health condition, according to Suzanne Gage, of the University of Liverpool’s Department of Psychological Sciences, who wrote a commentary accompanying the article. Even though the study included people who were diagnosed with their first episode of psychosis, they may have experienced less severe symptoms prior to their diagnosis, Gage noted.