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International Researchers Determine Cannabis Rarely Induces Psychosis

By Frank Schuler

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One of the oldest and most-popular talking points among cannabis prohibitionists is that cannabis is ‘bad for the brain.’ Cannabis prohibitionists, aided by mainstream media and film, have historically portrayed cannabis users as being completely insane.

Arguably the best example of that is via the 1936 film Reefer Madness, in which many of the actors in the film try cannabis and are instantly thrust into a full-blown psychotic episode. One character even commits suicide in the film ‘due to consuming reefer.’

To be sure, mental health issues are a major concern and not to be taken lightly. With that being said, it’s an enormous disservice to people experiencing mental health issues to falsely place blame on cannabis and essentially issue a misdiagnosis.

Suffering patients of all types deserve to have safe access to effective medicine and to have their health advice based on science, not politics. Several studies have debunked the ‘cannabis makes you crazy’ myth, including a recent one involving a team of international researchers. Below is more information about it via a news release from NORML:

Lausanne, Switzerland: Cannabis consumption rarely triggers episodes of acute psychosis in those without a pre-existing psychiatric disorder, according to data published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

An international team of researchers from Australia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom assessed lifetime occurrences of “cannabis-associated psychotic symptoms” (CAPS) requiring hospitalization in a cohort of 233,000 European marijuana consumers.

Authors reported that less than one-half of one percent of subjects reported ever having had such an experience. Those at higher risk for such incidences included younger aged subjects, as well as those with a prior diagnosis of bipolar, anxiety, or depressive disorder, or psychosis.

“Our findings are in line with the idea of a common (genetic) vulnerability representing risk that is shared across psychiatric disorders,” authors determined. They concluded, “Rates of CAPS as observed here are comparable to rates of other drug-induced psychosis, such as alcohol-associated psychosis (around 0.4 – 0.7 percent).”

The study’s findings are consistent with those of a separate paper, published in July in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, which reported that medical cannabis patients are at “low” risk for psychiatric hospitalizations resulting from their marijuana use. In that trial, investigators assessed marijuana-related hospitalizations among a cohort of over 23,000 subjects over a median period of 240 days. During that time, only 26 patients were hospitalized explicitly because of “mental or behavioral disorders due to the use of cannabis.”

The findings push back against high-profile claims from some cannabis reform opponents that marijuana exposure is a frequent trigger for psychosis and other mental health disorders.

Full text of the study, “Rates and correlates of cannabis-associated psychotic symptoms in over 230,000 people who use cannabis,” appears in Translational Psychiatry. Additional information on cannabis and mental health is available from NORML’s white paper, ‘Cannabis, Mental Health, and Context: The Case for Regulation.’

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