Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the world, largely because it is considered by many users to be a “soft drug”. And this low awareness of risk causes an illusion of false security, and causes many people to increase their use thinking that cannabis is a harmless drug.
With the legalization of recreational marijuana use in more and more countries, ideas such as marijuana is an innocent and safe drug are reinforced in public opinion (the same prejudice that occurs with alcohol , which, although it is legal, is the drug that causes the most deaths and social problems in the world).
In recent years, several scientific studies have shown that Frequent marijuana use increases the risk of psychosis or schizophreniaespecially if use begins in adolescence (which is the case for most users).
On the one hand, the use of marijuana increases the risks of suffering from psychosis and, on the other hand, people who already suffer from psychotic symptoms or schizophrenia are more attracted to the use of marijuana as a form of self-medication (as for alcohol and most psychological problems).
What is cannabis psychosis?
What is a psychotic cannabis outbreak? Cannabis directly affects parts of the brain that have many cannabinoid receptors, such as the hippocampus or the amygdala (parts essential for the functioning of memory or emotions). By directly affecting these parts of the brain, excessive cannabis use distorts reality.
What are the symptoms of cannabis psychosis?
- Hallucinations (visual or auditory, such as hearing voices)
- Delusions of grandeur and self-reference (believing that people on the street are watching you or associating almost anything that happens with you)
- Paranoia and thoughts of persecution
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Aggressive or violent behavior
How long does marijuana psychosis last? It usually lasts more than a week and requires abstinence and drug treatment in most cases. If the person consumes again, it is very likely that psychotic flare-ups will recur, or even lead to long-term schizophrenia.
Can marijuana use cause schizophrenia?
A CSIC research team recently discovered that frequent and excessive cannabis use upsets the balance in the transmission of glutamate and dopamine in the brain, which can lead to nervous system disorders associated with psychosis and schizophrenia.
The key would be in a dysfunction of the NMDAr receptor, linked to neuronal plasticity and memory. This receptor regulates the action of glutamate, which stabilizes the entire neural system and counteracts the effects of the drug. Cannabis use deactivates the NMDAr receptor, which increases the effects of dopamine and can cause psychosis.
Other research has shown that marijuana users who have a certain variant of the AKT1 gene are up to seven times more likely to develop psychosis. That is, a genetic predisposition appears to be required to develop psychotic symptoms after marijuana use.
Other studies have found a higher risk of developing psychosis in adulthood in people who used marijuana as teenagers and who had a specific variant of the COMT gene.
It has also been observed in various researches that the use of marijuana worsens symptoms in people who already have schizophrenia or psychosis. Paradoxically, these people are more likely to resort to marijuana use as a form of self-medication, mistakenly thinking that marijuana will alleviate their symptoms, unaware that it will likely make them worse over time.
Self-deception among cannabis users
One of the most frustrating things for family members and loved ones of regular cannabis users is that these they are unaware of the risk or problems it is causing in their lives. Marijuana is an addictive drug, for which many people have had to go to rehab centers for months in order to overcome their addiction and return to normal life.
However, many people who smoke marijuana “deny the risks of marijuana.” They don’t believe addiction exists, they don’t believe marijuana is a problem, and they even argue that it’s all part of some kind of conspiracy. These are the usual delusions in some cases of addiction, in which the person is carried away by self-deception and creates a separate reality in which marijuana only gives him good things, presents no risks and is even the most most important in his life. (which clearly denotes the addiction problem).
As I explained earlier, many people who already have problems with marijuana use increase their use in the hope that it will ease their symptoms. Which only makes things worse in the long run, trapping the person is a vicious circle which in many cases ends up ruining the person’s life.
Will quitting cannabis end the psychosis?
It is true that reducing or avoiding consumption reduces the chances of suffering from psychosis in the future. But In people who have already activated the genes associated with schizophrenia, it is very difficult to go back. It’s like pressing a button that can no longer be turned off. Marijuana can trigger a psychotic disorder and leave the symptoms there forever.
How to Quit Marijuana to Avoid Developing (or Worsening) Psychosis
Marijuana is an addictive drug that has destroyed the lives of many people around the world. Quitting marijuana is not easy, precisely because it is addictive. If you or someone close to you has started to suffer from marijuana abuse problems, you should seek professional help..
My name is Luis Miguel Real and I am a psychologist specialized in addictions. Contact me and we’ll get to work as soon as possible.
- Cannabis-induced psychosis: a cross-sectional comparison with acute schizophrenia. Acta Psychiatr Scand, 105 (2002), pp. 173-8.
- Linzen DH, Dingemans PM, Lenior ME (1994) Cannabis abuse and the course of new-onset schizophrenic disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994; 51: 273–9.
- Le Bec, PY et al (2009). “Cannabis and psychosis: searching for a causal link through a critical and systematic review”. The Brain 35 (4): 377-385.
- NEST. (2020). Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?
- Núñez Domínguez LA, Gurpegui Fernández de Legaria M..