Can High-Potency Pot Make You Psychotic?

High-strength cannabis increases risk of mental health problems

People who use cannabis every day run a significantly higher risk of developing the serious mental illness psychosis, especially if they use more potent forms of the drug, such as skunk, scientists said.

People who smoke cannabis on a regular basis are much more likely to experience delusions, severe depression and other symptoms of psychosis - with the risk increasing significantly with more potent forms of the drug, a new study finds.

High-strength cannabis, such as skunk, has levels of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) above 10%.

Many countries - including most recently Canada - have legalized or decriminalized cannabis use, leading to some concerns about increased use and its potential harm.

After taking into account factors including drinking, education and use of other drugs such as ketamine, the team found those with a psychotic disorder were more likely to have used cannabis at some point in their life than those without the condition.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers turned to 11 sites across Europe and another in Brazil and examined new cases of psychosis between 2010 and 2015, finding a total of 901.

The evidence shows those types of users may actually be three times more likely to develop a psychotic disorder than someone who has never used cannabis. In London, 2 in 10 cases were linked to daily use, while 3 in 10 were linked to high-potency use.

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The research adds to previous studies that have found links between marijuana and mental health problems, but still does not definitively pinpoint marijuana as the cause.

The number of people having first-time psychotic episodes in Amsterdam could be halved if strong marijuana was no longer available, according to a report by King's College London researchers.

Robin Murray, a professor at the IoPPN who also worked on the study, said it should be noted by all policymakers and any potential cannabis users.

The study had limitations because it relied on self-reported use of cannabis and only small numbers of participants were involved at each site.

Almost 30 per cent of patients who had experienced a first episode of psychosis were daily cannabis users, compared with less than seven percent of those in the control group.

"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", he said.

However, the registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Adrian James, said the findings were to be "taken seriously", and that his institution "is reviewing the mental health effect of cannabis use".

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