Teens Who Use Cannabis Have a Significantly Higher Risk of Developing Psychosis

Doctors have known for a long time that using too much marijuana can cause psychosis, especially in young people. However, recent research indicates that the connection is even stronger than previously thought.

According to new research from Canada, teenagers who use cannabis are 11 times more likely to experience a psychotic episode compared to teenagers who do not use the drug. According to the researchers, the teenage years may be a particularly vulnerable time for this.

“We discovered a significant connection between using cannabis and the likelihood of developing a psychotic disorder during adolescence. The lead author of the study, André McDonald, who conducted the research as part of his PhD work at the University of Toronto, stated that they were surprised to find no evidence of association in young adulthood.

The results were released on Wednesday in the journal Psychological Medicine. McDonald completed the research at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

Psychotic episodes are a serious mental state where people lose touch with reality. These episodes can become so chaotic that people may require hospitalization.

The Toronto investigators noted that it has been known for a long time that marijuana use can contribute to psychosis, and they also mentioned that the potency of cannabis is much stronger now compared to previous decades. The average strength of THC in cannabis in Canada increased from about 1% in 1980 to 20% in 2018, according to estimates.

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How does the use of super-strong weed affect the developing brains of teenagers?

To determine this, McDonald and his colleagues examined survey data from more than 11,000 young people in the Canadian province of Ontario. They also analyzed records of health services used in the province, including hospitalizations, visits to the emergency department, and outpatient visits.

Researchers discovered a significant connection between teenagers using marijuana and their visits to the hospital for psychosis.

The study found that out of every 6 teens admitted to the hospital for a psychotic episode, 5 of them had previously used marijuana.

In a news release from ICES, McDonald emphasized that most teenagers who use cannabis will not develop a psychotic disorder.

However, he also mentioned that based on this information, it seems that many teenagers who are diagnosed with a psychotic disorder have probably used cannabis in the past.

The study could only demonstrate a connection between marijuana use and psychosis, but it could not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. It’s possible that teenagers who were already at risk of experiencing psychosis were more likely to use marijuana as a way to cope with their symptoms. Genetics and personal traumas that teenagers experience could also have an impact.

According to study senior author Susan Bondy, the connection between marijuana use and psychotic episodes is very strong, which makes it worth considering.

“It is now more important than ever to develop prevention strategies for teenagers, as cannabis products with higher THC content are more easily accessible in the market,” said Bondy, who is an affiliate scientist at ICES and an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

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