A fresh perspective on the cannabis- psychosis connection

by DGO Staff

New study reveals no increased risk of developing psychosis from smoking weed. Yay!

The connection between cannabis and psychosis has long been a hotly debated topic, with some studies sug-gesting an increased risk of psychosis and addiction linked to high-potency cannabis. However, a groundbreaking study published in the Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences journal is shaking up the narrative, revealing no increased risk of developing psycho-sis due to cannabis use, even among those predisposed to the disorder.

This international research endeavor, involving experts from Australia, Europe, and the United Kingdom, sought to expand our understanding of the link between cannabis and psychosis.

The cannabis-psychosis debate
The authors acknowledged the historical controversy surrounding this issue, citing “limited prospective studies” and a persisting lack of consensus on the direction of the association. They set out to explore the relationship between cannabis use and the incidence of psychotic disorders in individuals at high risk for developing psychosis, as well as assessing associations between cannabis use and symptom persistence and functional outcomes.
The study analyzed 334 high-risk individuals and 67 healthy control subjects. Over a two-year follow-up period, 16.2% of the high-risk group developed psychosis, but researchers found no significant association between cannabis use and the development of psychosis, symptom persistence, or functional outcomes. This contradicts previous epidemiological data suggesting that cannabis use increases the risk of psychotic disorders.

Shining light on a misunderstood subject
These findings challenge several recent studies on the cannabis-psychosis link, but they also highlight the complexity of the issue. A 2016 review by The Lancet showed that, while cannabis use might not have a causal relationship with psycho-sis, reducing or eliminating use can improve outcomes for those already experiencing the disorder.

Although individuals with psychotic illnesses may be more likely to use cannabis and other substances, lifetime incidences of acute cannabis-induced psychosis in the general population remain rare.

This study emphasizes that even among those predisposed to psychosis, a history of cannabis use is not associated with an increased risk of developing the illness. The authors call for further research to better understand the relationship between cannabis use and mental health outcomes, potentially reshaping policy and healthcare perspectives.

Reinforcing the Argument
The study is not alone in its conclusions. A 2022 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry study found no significant changes in cannabis-induced psycho-sis or schizophrenia emergency room presentations following Canada’s cannabis legalization. Similarly, a January 2023 Journal of the American Medical Association study found no association between state policies legalizing cannabis and psychosis-related outcomes in the United States.

This emerging body of research is adding nuance to the cannabis-psychosis debate and reshaping our understanding of the relationship between the two, which is never a bad thing.

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