A new meta-analysis of research involving 20,000 patients has shown that people who smoke marijuana could develop psychosis (an abnormal condition of the mind characterized as a loss of contact with reality and sometimes including hallucinations, delusions and disordered thoughts) 2.7 years earlier than those who don’t smoke marijuana.
The research was a review of 83 previous studies on the relationship between substance abuse and psychotic illness. “Heavy cannabis use starting at a young age carries a very much greater risk than modest use as an adult,” said study author Dr. Matthew Large. (Source: Businessweek.com) Youth need to be made aware of the risk associated with smoking marijuana, along with other risk factors for psychotic disorders, a general category which includes schizophrenia.
The study also looked at alcohol use and the onset of psychosis, but did not observe it accelerated the condition’s starting point.
Cheryl M. Corcoran, MD, a researcher from Columbia University commented on the research, saying “This is a very comprehensive study; the authors paid very close attention to methodological issues and considered several important factors in a very sophisticated manner, such as the proportion of males in the different studies.” (Source: Medscape.com) She also said the study does not prove smoking marijuana alone causes psychosis.
It might be that youth suffering from the symptoms of psychosis are drawn to a substance that seems to alleviate some of their pain, without having to face the stigma of mental illness and the involvement of parents or the medical establishment. Another factor could be they find some acceptance in a sub-culture with its own self-medicating practices, music, style of dress and jargon, because psychosis can result in extreme social isolation.
Previous research has indicated there could be a link between the onset of schizophrenia and regular marijuana smoking: “Researchers in New Zealand found that those who used cannabis by the age of 15 were more than three times (300 percent) more likely to develop illnesses such as schizophrenia.” (Source: Schizophrenia.com)
The recent tragedy in Arizona involved a young adult shooter who has been speculated to suffer from schizophrenia, and was reportedly a regular marijuana user. Most people suffering from mental illness don’t ever resort to such actions, but if undiagnosed and untreated it can progress to a point of violent behavior.
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