The impact marijuana has on mental health is still somewhat of an anomaly in the grand scheme of what we know, understand and appreciate about the cannabis plant. There are some who believe that cannabis use can bring on an increased risk for psychosis, while some studies have shown a relationship between pot consumers and schizophrenia. Yet, some of the latest research finds that cannabis could be a safer and more effective way to treat depression than prescription medications, which are doled out to 1 out of 3 people, according to a report from NPR.
It stands to reason that with more states moving to legalize the leaf for medicinal and recreational purposes, we need to get a grip on its impact on public health. But this is difficult to do, especially since the herb is still considered an outlaw substance in the eyes of the federal government. This roadblock continues to prevent scientific minds from digging deep into the cannabis plant, to understand more about its therapeutic benefits and potential downfalls. Still, when it comes to the cannabis plant and psychotic disorders, the research we do have suggests that it is not a cut-and-dry issue.
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“A frequently cited adverse effect of cannabis use is increased risk of psychosis, where the user experiences disordered thinking, hallucinations and delusions,” reads a new report from the World Health Organization. “There are frequent reports of acute cannabis intoxication precipitating a short-lasting psychotic state that reverses once the effects of the drug have abated.”
Although some studies have shown that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, can bring about increased paranoia, anxiety – all of which are connected to psychosis – cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown effective as an anti-psychotic. Some of the evidence points to dosage as being the real key to whether marijuana serves as medicine or causes a person to suffer from mental woes.
“The relationship between cannabis use and risk of schizophrenia appears to be dose-dependent,” the report says. Yet, “sharp increases in global cannabis use in recent decades has not increased the incidence of schizophrenia.”
But it also depends on the age of the user.
“Most of the evidence that cannabis causes schizophrenia comes from studies of during-adolescence users, and adolescence is the period of highest risk for developing schizophrenia,” the report reads. “The rates of cannabis-induced psychosis may be lower in patients who commence cannabis use in adulthood.”
While there is a lot to be learned about marijuana and its impact on mental health, WHO says most people have nothing to worry about. “The vast majority of people who use cannabis will never develop a psychotic disorder, and those who do are likely to have some genetic vulnerability to cannabis-induced psychosis,” the report reads.