Health Care

Smoking cannabis daily triples the risk of developing serious mental illness

Smoke Strong Marijuana Daily and Run the Risk of Psychosis

The study reported on first-time psychotic episodes, and people can experience psychosis without ever being diagnosed with a long-term mental health condition, NIMH says.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, looked at 901 people ages 18 to 64 who were first diagnosed with psychosis between 2010 and 2015.

And for those who used high-potency pot on a daily basis, the risk of psychosis was even greater - four times greater than those who had never used.

If high-THC cannabis - including strains such as "trainwreck", "gorilla glue", and "hindu kush" - were no longer available, "12 per cent of cases of first-episode psychosis could be prevented across Europe", the researchers calculated.

If skunk was taken off the streets of London, new cases of psychosis would drop 30 per cent, from 46 to 32 cases per 100,000 people, she said.

"If you decide to use high-potency marijuana, you should bear in mind: Psychosis is a potential risk", said Dr. Marta Di Forti, of King's College London and the study's lead author.

"If you are going to legalise cannabis, unless you want to pay for more a lot more psychiatric beds and a lot more psychiatrists, then you need to devise a system where you would legalise in a way that wouldn't increase the consumption and increase the potency", study author Sir Robin Murray told The Guardian.

Smoking cannabis daily triples the risk of developing serious mental illness
Smoking cannabis daily triples the risk of developing serious mental illness

It is cultivated to have super-high levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC, making it up to ten times more powerful than the "weed" and "hashish" common 20 to 30 years ago. The latest research confirms estimates that people who smoke the drug daily are three times as likely to suffer from psychosis and those who use the strongest forms every day are five times as likely to develop it.

Daily marijuana use was four times more likely among patients with first-episode psychosis, with almost 30 percent saying they used pot daily compared with only about 7 percent of people in the control group.

More studies using different designs "could help us to triangulate evidence and get a better idea of whether it's truly a causal effect", Gage said. When it came to strong pot, these figures were 37 and 19 percent respectively.

The easy availability of high-THC weed is a recent phenomenon, she notes.

"Daily use of high-potency cannabis and how this varies across Europe explains some of the striking variations we have measured in the incidence of psychotic disorder", said Di Forti. It was paid for by funders including Britain's Medical Research Council, the Sao Paulo Research Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

[2] Sites included in the study: London (UK), Cambridge (UK), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Gouda and Voorhout (Netherlands), Paris (Val-de-Marne, France), Puy de Dôme (France), Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Bologna (Italy), Palermo (Italy), Ribeirão Preto (Brazil).

Scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London compared the assessment results of psychosis patients with that of 1,237 matched non-patients recruited for the study.

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