Cannabis Associated With Psychotic Disorders

Psychosis

Man with psychotic disorders.

Cannabis can trigger psychosis symptoms in those who are at high risk for developing a psychoactive disorder

Research on cannabis products seized by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) shows that the average THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content in cannabis-infused products has tripled between 1995 and 2014. This means cannabis products are far more intoxicating these days than they were in 1995. This raises concerns because THC, the primary psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant, has strong correlations with psychotic disorders.


CBD and THC content found in cannabis samples seized by DEA. Source

Psychosis is a debilitating and destructive mental health condition, requiring immediate medical attention. Those experiencing a psychotic episode are dangerous to themselves and others.

In most cases, cannabis’ effects are milder than most other intoxicating substances. However, research suggests that this may not be the case for those with a vulnerability to a mental health complication called cannabis-induced psychosis, which disconnects consumers from reality.



How does cannabis cause paranoia?

Research led by Professor Daniel Freeman of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom indicates that cannabis consumption can induce paranoia. According to Freeman, paranoia refers to a mental health condition in which victims excessively think that others are trying to harm them.

For this research, Freeman examined the effects of THC on 121 volunteers aged 21 to 50, to determine whether THC triggers paranoid feelings and, if so, how. All participants lacked any history of mental illness and had used cannabis at least once.

Two-thirds of participants were injected with THC, while a third of the participants were given a placebo. The researchers found that among participants who received THC, around 50 percent reported paranoid thoughts, compared with 30% of participants who received the placebo. The team found that THC also induces worry, anxiety, mood swings, negative thoughts and changes in perception.



Cannabis-induced psychosis symptoms

Cannabis-related psychosis occurs because of frequent or heavy cannabis consumption. Psychotic disorders are drastic for those who experience them, and frightening for their loved ones. The symptoms of cannabis-induced psychosis include delusion, anxiety, and agitation.

It can also cause auditory and/or visual hallucinations among cannabis users. Those in a psychotic state often feel detached from reality, and sometimes, from their own bodies and minds. The feeling of confusion increases among them and their normal thought patterns change altogether.

Some other symptoms of cannabis abuse include extreme drowsiness, dry mouth, euphoria, altered perceptions, impaired memory, bloodshot eyes, and a few more.



Who is at risk?

Those with genetic variants, who have a paranoid personality type, as well as those who survived childhood trauma, are at a higher risk of developing psychosis from cannabis use. Adolescents and young adults whose brains are still developing, and those at the age when schizophrenia is more likely to develop, is also at risk.


Schizophrenia linked to cannabis use during teenage years. Source

In addition to these, the type of cannabis material used in the products that are consumed may also increase risk of psychosis, especially where there is high THC content. This compound often mimics the presentation of psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia, euphoria, sensory alteration, and hallucinations. 

Laboratory-based research found that even healthy people may experience psychosis symptoms after consuming THC compounds, while the effects are more severe among those suffering from schizophrenia.



Cannabis-induced psychosis treatment

As mentioned above, frequent, unregulated and excessive use of cannabis seems to be closely related to psychosis. That’s why using this drug in a controlled, and appropriate manner can help prevent psychosis disorders.

Treatment for these cannabis-induced psychosis disorders often go beyond standard detoxification or emergency medical procedures. Detox right after experiencing cannabis-induced psychosis requires a safe, comfortable, and relaxed atmosphere for the sufferer to recover from their illness.

However, medications -- specifically, antipsychotics, anti-seizure drugs, and antiepileptic -- can hasten the decline of psychotic symptoms in those abusing cannabis. Through regulated cannabis use, you can avoid possible psychotic disorders, while with a combination of therapies, medication, healing practices, and aftercare services, you can overcome these conditions and reduce the risk of episodes of psychosis.



Final words

While there is no clear cause-and-effect evidence on the issue of cannabis-induced psychosis, there are some correlations between excessive marijuana use and psychotic disorders. More research must be done on the issue before any concrete lines are drawn, but the knowledge of the possibility should be enough to use the drug moderately and responsibly, if you use it at all.