Psychosis and Marijuana Use Linked in Teens
With recent legalizations at the state level for marijuana use, some argue that it is only a matter of time before smoking pot will be as commonplace as tobacco or alcohol use. Even in some states that have declined to legalize the drug, the use or possession of marijuana has been downgraded to a lesser charge.
The effects of marijuana use are still unclear, even as states are taking steps to legalize the use of the drug. There has been some evidence that there is a connection between psychosis and marijuana use, and many other aspects of the drug’s possible impact are not fully understood.
A recent study provides new insight into the relationship between psychosis and marijuana use among teens. The study, conducted by Dutch researchers, shows that while no causal evidence has been discovered related to psychosis and pot, there is a bidirectional connection.
The study finds that marijuana use could be a factor in the occurrence of psychosis in teens, although the reverse may also be evident: the presence of psychosis in teens is linked to the later initiation of marijuana use.
Lead author Merel Griffith-Lendering is a doctoral candidate at Leiden University. According to Reuters Health, the author notes that while previous research has asked whether psychosis or marijuana use came first, the current study finds that the processes may be occurring at the equivalent time.
It has been unclear whether marijuana use led to psychosis, or if individuals with mental health issues were using pot to ease their symptoms. There has been significant concern about this relationship in its effect on teens. Because the teenager’s brain is still developing, the use of a substance that leads to psychosis is a considerable risk.
The substance in pot that could cause damage is called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana and could damage a teenager’s developing brain.
The new study provides evidence based on the experiences of 2,120 Dutch teenagers surveyed on use of pot at the ages of 14, 16 and 19 years. The researchers also conducted vulnerability tests with the teens, which measured their feelings of loneliness, ability to focus and hallucinations.
The results showed that approximately 44 percent of the teens had a history of using pot. There was also a bidirectional connection between psychosis and pot use.
The analysis provided many examples of teens who experienced psychosis, and then later used marijuana; as well as instances in which marijuana use was followed by experiences with psychosis.
The results were not affected when researchers adjusted for variables such as a family history of mental illness or the use of other substances.