Marijuana use may speed psychosis
February 7th, 2011
05:56 PM ET

Marijuana use may speed psychosis

Using marijuana, or cannabis, may cause psychosis to develop sooner in patients already predisposed to developing it, and in other patients the drug may even cause psychosis, according to a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"This finding is an important breakthrough in our understanding of the relationship between cannabis use and psychosis," according to the study. "It raises the question of whether those substance users would still have gone on to develop psychosis a few years later."

Patients with psychosis tend to lose touch with reality and are prone to hallucinations and delusions about what is happening around them.  Psychosis is frequently reported among patients with diagnosed mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

What is schizophrenia?

According to the study led by Australian researchers, in which data from 83 studies involving more than 20,000 patients were analyzed, marijuana  users experienced psychosis about three years younger than non-users.  Users of other substances (besides pot) experienced symptoms of psychosis two years sooner. Alcohol use  had no influence on development of psychosis, according to the study.

"Reducing the use of cannabis could be one of the few ways of altering the outcome of the illness because earlier onset of schizophrenia is associated with a worse prognosis," according to the study.  "An extra two or three years of psychosis-free functioning could allow many patients to achieve the important developmental milestones of late adolescence and early adulthood that could lower the long-term disability arising from psychotic disorders."

But experts say the complexity of interaction between genes and environment, and the possibility that cannabis is, in fact, a way to self-medicate when psychotic symptoms arise are not accounted for in this study.

The marijuana-schizophrenia link

"It is distinctly possible, in fact likely, that folks who experience initial symptoms turn to cannabis in an effort to control them, then end up having a psychotic break of some sort earlier simply because they had their first symptoms earlier," said Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, who is also a marijuana policy expert. "This predicament makes it look as if cannabis preceded the psychotic symptoms when, in fact...folks with worse symptoms who are more likely to have an early break might simply be more likely to turn to cannabis."

Theories about an association between marijuana use and schizophrenia include several –sometimes interrelated - scenarios: The possibility that cannabis causes schizophrenia; that cannabis may cause people vulnerable to schizophrenia to develop symptoms; that cannabis may make schizophrenia symptoms worse; or that people with schizophrenia are more likely to use cannabis, according to the study.

Study authors suggest that this study, "lends weight to the view that cannabis use precipitates schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders," perhaps because of some confluence of genetic and environmental factors, or because using cannabis early in life may disrupt brain development.

"[This study] found that cannabis is associated with early onset of psychosis and that is most likely true but it doesn't answer the question of which way it goes," said Dr. Charles L. Raison, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Emory University, and CNNHealth's mental health expert doctor. "Does smoking cannabis early in life make you vulnerable to getting early psychosis or is the first manifestation of psychosis to do drugs and alcohol, or is it both?"

Do you have diagnosed schizophrenia? How well are you managing it?

Raison added that other studies suggesting a causal relationship between marijuana  use and psychosis disagree with this one.

Whatever the relationship between cannabis and psychosis, experts can agree that early use of cannabis is problematic.

"No one wants to see young people get heavily involved with any psychoactive substances," said Earleywine.

soundoff (1,357 Responses)
  1. mantaec

    Read this "Still, none of the data linking marijuana use and psychosis can prove causality or sufficiently explain why rates of schizophrenia have remained stable or even declined since the 1950s, while marijuana use has increased exponentially. Unlike rates of cigarette smoking and lung cancer, which rise in tandem, marijuana smoking rates in the population do not correlate with higher rates of schizophrenia." And follow Potheads link. Bottom line is pretty simple, if you are out of your mind or have parents that are nuts, then go lightly on the pot and see how it effects you. And keep in mind that if you have alcoholic parents it might effect you too! So if your parents are drunks, you should smoke pot instead. The study is worthless. And I also have a hard time believing that these idiots didn't get financial relief or the study....if I drink too much coffee I'm paranoid...I'm always looking for another cup or the person that took the last cup...but that is maybe the pot acting on me! Get a life!

    February 12, 2011 at 19:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 12, 2011 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
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    February 12, 2011 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. T-Luv

    Would the psychosis or schizephrenia be a result of prolonged paranoia because I'm only paranoid due to the fact that its illegal. If it were legalized I wouldnt have to fear being caught.

    February 14, 2011 at 07:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. shaggy DA


    February 14, 2011 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Cliff

    Been smoking everyday since 1967. Still waiting on these extras to kick in.

    February 14, 2011 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mola


    February 14, 2011 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Tim

    Who own’s your body?

    Only the owner of your body can tell you what to put into it.


    February 15, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. 30-year-smoker

    So they're saying that MAYBE, if you're already a mental case, using a lot of intoxicants can make it worse. This is a discovery?!

    February 17, 2011 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. kenny

    We really don't have to be concerned about illegality much longer. The street cops will only be able to write tickets soon because there won't be any money to lock people up. Finally the economic crisis has an up side! Go to Kenny Lawrence Comedy dot com. I came out of the closet on the internet. To hell with judgers!

    February 20, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ty

    Big thumbs up to you cliff. When it comes down to it I like smoking pot. If it makes me crazy or im already going to be crazy based on my genes It seems to me that its everyone elses problem. not mine. It seems liek this study is just another ploy to scare our non smoking friends out there. Especially the ones involved in the government. The ones who end up voting for its legalization. Reguardless, there will always be reefer to be had. and my bong is hungry.

    February 20, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. dirty dirty

    i think it's so funny that the media will JUMP on the negative benefits of cannabis so dam fast but NEVER talk about or post the positive at all. what a joke. 'fair and balanced' CNN.

    February 21, 2011 at 02:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SUE

      Never saw anything so severe in my life than I did in my own son (20) on pot. I'm an old hippie and never thought there was anything that bad or that great about pot. But, my kid wound up psychotic/ schizophrenic due to pot use and was hospitalized twice in the past 9 months for a total of 65 days. He's gone from prescription med Zyprexa 30mg which he hates, to Invega which is better, but he just started easing into it 4 days ago. He is doing much better, I don't know if he will stay away from pot, but I do know he doesn't want to be hospitalized again. I was glad to find the CNN article because I didn't realize weed could make someone so wicked.

      March 27, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
    • Auth

      drug use in adolescence has nsuuual, long-term negative effects. We found previous studies linking adolescent marijuana use to later psychotic symptoms, and an increased potential for oxycontin addiction in teenagers. The problem is that adolescence

      March 4, 2012 at 02:08 | Report abuse |
  14. Balthazar Getty

    I'm more than happy if people want to continue to waste their lives smoking cannabis, if that's what they want to do, regardless of whether it's harmful or beneficial. While you're wasting your days lazing around high on cannabis, I'll be busy advancing my career and improving my life and doing worthwhile things that I care about. So keep on smokin' that weed and see where it gets you.

    February 23, 2011 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Fred

    Wow, Most of the blogs don't get it. If you are around kids with psychosis 90% of the time they are on marijuana. It had to make studies like this but when you talk to those who have been in mental health for decades it certainly does not only intensify the psychosis and get in the way of anti-psychotic drugs but is a catalyst for those who are predisposed to it. Its a no brainer when you've lived through it. No worries for those who are not predisposed-like all of you who are on this blog negating the study. Only 4% of the population suffers from psychosis so I doubt they will be posting on this blog. The minority should be looked after by the majority.

    February 23, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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      March 5, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
  16. jadon

    Anything is better in moderation, don't over do it and you will be fine. This goes for most everything like drugs, meds,alcohol, coffee, energy drinks, TV, Internet, txting, running, you name it it can be overdone and bad for you. anyway If they look hard they will eventually find something Cannabis affects negatively, but does not means its bad... i would say its better then man made drugs by far, look at all it is helping and look at what its not, which one out weighs the other? Thats right, its helping more then its hurting people. Moderation, don't over indulge, Legalize!!

    February 23, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Gareth

    Note the conclusion.


    March 2, 2011 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. KI

    Hey SUE,
    Please respond back to me and I need to ask you a question about a similar experience. Thanks

    April 12, 2011 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ana

      i'm currently going through a similar experience with my 22yr old daughter.. who was just hospitalized for 10 days. dr feels it was substance induced psychosis. she regularly smokes marijuana & the hookah. last night, 2 days after discharge, she went out smoking & had a few drinks.. returned with a psychotic episode that lasted an hour & woke up with another hour or so. refused to go to hospital.

      July 1, 2011 at 15:09 | Report abuse |
  19. Former Marijuana Addict

    Marijuana has ruined my memory, I can't even remember my cash card pin number anymore. You can read more stories of how it can mess with your mind where I go now or help quitting:


    If you read a few of our stories you will see it's not harmless.

    June 6, 2011 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rh

      Tucson shooter was a pot addict for years, enough said.

      June 30, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
  20. Rary

    So psychosis means you found god?

    "Patients with psychosis tend to lose touch with reality and are prone to hallucinations and delusions about what is happening around them. "

    that describes religious conservatives

    August 9, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
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  25. Chris Morton

    Lobbing red herrings are we?

    Here's a red herring for you. (Well, it's actually just an outrageous disparity somewhat off the subject – but please share, for the sanity) :

    Rich Paul – 81 years for cannabis, while another man gets a "maximum" of 20 for molesting a child



    April 19, 2013 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Hooman

    I know this is a lot for people to take into consideration because I mean I still loove weed for what it is even after what I went through but I love it at a distance now. I was one of the people that smoked very rarely when I was 13 and didn't really start hitting it until 17 and until I was 21. I started hearing voices before I moved away for college about 50 miles from home. I remember thinking slower, more euphoria, and I thought I had just created something! I was going crazy but didnt know it until when my second semester at school I lost my gf, lost my job and failed all my classes. Total failure and ended up at a psychiatric office. Thanks to helpful people I got off a HORRIBLE pill after 8 months and gaining 60 pounds (WAY more effective than munchies). Honest to God point of view though if weed gets legalized. My point of view is there will be cases of kids at that age smoking it and I'm sure we will see a lot more mental cases in the long run. It's not safe unless we strictly make the age like 27 or something because it'll make a bigger impact on the minds of those who give it to the young.

    July 28, 2013 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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