Fact 014: Only about 1%-5% of marijuana users end up developing psychosis

Scientists have continued to disagree over whether psychosis caused by marijuana lasts for a very short time or if there is a more deep connection between them.

No one would dispute the fact that marijuana can make some people experience a temporary symptoms of psychotic, says the National Institute of Drug Abuse director, Dr. Nora Volkow. “But can cannabis by itself trigger the schizophrenic disease? That’s not so clear,” says Dr. Nora.

Dr. Nora says it is essential that distinction is made. Drugs such as methamphetamine or marijuana can make some people go through symptomsike disorganized thinking, hostility and paranoia. But that is quiet different from a persistent, chronic psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia. Volkow says, “you can have a psychotic episode from the use of marijuana without it turning into schizophrenia. It is very distressing, but you will get out of it.”

Despite this, some researchers are still not convinced that marijuana adds to schizophrenia’s development. Nine studies have been conducted on whether there is a relation between psychosis and the use of marijuana by following hundres to thousands of people for years. All of these studies except one shows that the use of marijuana is connected to schizophrenia.

However, NIH’s Dr. Nora Volkow says that all these studies do not prove that the use of marijuana leads to schizophrenia; they only proved that people that have schizophrenia are more likely to equally be marijuana users.

She says it could just be the opposite – that psychosis makes people want to smoke weed instead the weed making them psychotic. She says, “people who have an emerging schizophrenic disorder may be consuming marijuana – trying to self-meditate because they just do not feel right.”

There are more issues with these studies also. Canabis users also are likelier to make use of other drugs, including the ones that are known to cause brief episodes of psychotic. Also one other research showed that people that have schizophrenia are likelier to be addicted to drug generally. That makes it very difficult to conclude if the people involved in these experiments developed schizophrenia because they were smoking marijuana or because of some other factors.

According to a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Krista Lisdal, people smoke marijuana these days than ever in history and if the relation between schizophrenia and weed is concrete, then the amount of people that have developed schizophrenia should be increasing. But it has not. Only one percent of smokers have this disorder. Also, a recent study that was published in The Lancet about the abuse of marijuana with about 15% THC content, that is found in large numbers among growers today, could increase the schizophrenia risk by five. “We think about 5% of people will go psychotic instead of 1%. This still means over 90% of people who smoke the high-potency will be okay,” the publisher says.

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